GERMANY – 2008 – 93 MIN – COLOUR - FEATURE - IN GERMAN WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES
A FILM BY CHRISTIAN PETZOLD
Jerichow, a town in Germany’s northeast lies in an impoverished area with few jobs to be had. Following his mother’s death Thomas returns to his hometown, a former soldier who has been dishonourably discharged from the army. He has inherited his mother’s house and wants to renovate it and look for job.
Fate brings Thomas and Ali together. Ali owns, leases and supplies 45 takeaways in the local area. He always comes through yet is mistrustful and always suspicious that he’s being duped by his leaseholders. Ali likes Thomas. He trusts him. He offers him a job as a driver and assistant with an attractive salary.
Laura is Ali’s wife, attractive, cool and always a little sullen. Thomas comes face to face with her whenever he drives his delivery truck up to Ali’s brick-fronted villa deep in the woods in the mornings and evenings. She treats Thomas coolly, almost disdainfully. He’s the driver her husband has chosen to befriend. And her husband is merely the man she kisses goodbye in the morning – a man who becomes frantic when he can’t reach Laura on her mobile.
Thomas watches on and sees Laura and Ali’s strained relationship. He sees them perform the everyday rituals, watches them stagnate. He sits next to Laura on the beach, during their outing to the Baltic Sea. Ali dances, drunken and absent- mindedly, to the notes of a Turkish tune. Without wanting to, he lures Laura and Thomas into his web of desire, changing the course of all of their lives.
They become ever more entangled in their passions, their dreams, their interdependence and their secrets until the point where what they really want from one another only appears attainable with an act of betrayal.
￼When we were shooting my last film, YELLA, in the Prignitz region of Germany, there was a report in the local newspaper that the police had arrested a Vietnamese man. He was found on the highway standing next to his car which had a broken rear axle. The trunk was full of coins, and that was good enough reason to arrest him. It turned out that the man owned 45 snack-bars in the region, and the money in the trunk was change and daily receipts. He had built up his business and bought a house on the outskirts of town, deep in the forest away from the other homes, for himself and his family.
Prignitz County is a region in former East Germany dying a slow death. Nothing is produced, there is hardly any work. Nev- ertheless, the Vietnamese man had managed to start a business, buy a house, and find a “home” here. Finding-a-home is something that interests me, and people who manage to get their way against all odds too. Everywhere they turn, they are confronted with defeat and bankruptcy, but nevertheless they forge on.
Often these “home-builders” are withdrawn. They are like islands. They are alone. The idea of being an islander reminds me of Robinson Crusoe: trade routes, modern capitalism, the yearning of people to understand it all and to begin anew, the results is reconstruction. That is what Robinson does, he reconstructs the world again. When other people, friendship, and love intrude into his world, it all falls apart.
When the film was finished and we could view it with a bit of distance, we were surprised to see that there is not a single scene in which money doesn’t play a role. As an image, as a value, as betrayal, and as a means of exchange. I had the feel- ing that money had slipped into the film, into the images and between the characters: that it lubricated the story.
I also noticed that it is always men who are these home-builders. That is why they need money and a woman. “You can’t love, if you don’t have money!” says Laura. She doesn’t want to buy somebody. She doesn’t need a home. She needs money to be independent. The men aren’t happy with that. So a crime has to occur in the story.