\"What could go wrong?\"
This is a carefully orchestrated German language film set in and around
contemporary Vienna. It is about how the desires and needs of men and
women differ at the most fundamental level. The action concerns what
can go wrong when you try to rob a bank, even when you use an unloaded
gun. There is an old saying in the theater that if you show a gun in
the first act, it had better go off in the third act. Here director
Gotz Spielmann plays a variant on that old stage business. We see
something splash into a pond as the opening credits roll. It is not
clear what it is. The camera lingers as the concentric ripples spread
out and then are done. Later on in the film we see the same scene from
the point of view of the person who threw the object into the water. It
is near the end of the film, in what in the theater would be the third
"Revanche" in German means "revenge." We all know how hard it is to
forsake revenge when we have been hurt. We want to strike out at some
target. But what do we do when we have no target or when the target is
innocent? And to what extent is the desire for revenge a way of
absolving ourselves from what has happened? Revenge is a standard, even
hackneyed, movie theme. Action movies and thrillers often employ the
psychology of revenge as both theme and plot device, as a way of
keeping the audience emotionally involved. Here revenge is used in a
different and ultimately redemptive way.
Early in the film the camera lingers on a street scene. We see a narrow
alleyway like an urban street tunnel. The camera holds that shot so
that we expect to see someone or something emerging from that alleyway.
But it is only later that the scene is revisited, and much like the
pond scene mentioned above we see the scene from the opposite angle,
and what transpires contains the central event of the movie. This sense
of seeing scenes from different angles--opposite angles actually--is
echoed in the opposing perspectives of the two women and the two men.
There is, for example, the symmetry of how the two men work off the
psychological tension that they feel. Robert (Andreas Lust), who is a
cop who has accidentally shot and killed a young woman involved in a
robbery, jogs. Alex (Johannes Krisch), who is the boyfriend of the dead
woman, a woman he loves very much, puts his physical energy into
chopping wood--viciously. For one it is the cardio and the legs; for
the other it is the upper body.
And then there are the two women: Tamara (Irina Potapenko) who is the
young woman now dead, who was a prostitute, and Susanne (Ursula
Strauss) who is the cop's wife. Both are very physical as women, both
aware of the power of their bodies, but more significantly both are
aware of their primeval need to understand men, and their ability to do
Susanne, who is thoroughly bourgeois, does something that is condemned
by society in the same way that prostitution is condemned. Yet she acts
out of clear intent without a hint of shame or the sense that she is
doing something essentially wrong. The prostitute acts out her societal
role with a shrug of her shoulders as to society's hypocritical
morality. Thus both women are morally and humanly the same.
This is Spielmann's point, not to make moral judgments about the worth
of either man or either woman. The prostitute is the moral equal of the
cop's wife, and cop's wife is the equal of the prostitute who sells her
body. And the man who kills because his aim is bad is the same as the
man who caused the death because of his criminal act and his
And in a deeper, extended sense, the old man (Alex's grandfather) grows
old and will die soon, but another life is stirring, and will be born
to take its place in this world. And so it goes. It is not for us to
pass judgment on the rightness or wrongness of any of this, except to
say that revenge, as Susanne expresses it, is a "sin" whether you are a
"believer" or not.
At any rate, this is a finely wrought and beautifully realized film by
a gifted cinematic artist who explores the human condition with
sensitivity and candor while eschewing clichés and easy answers. I hope
to see more of his work in the years to come..
The White will Perk you up
Greetings again from the darkness. Is it revenge or a second chance?
The double meaning of the title fits perfectly with this terrific,
believable story. Nominated for Best Foreign Film last year, it is just
now making its way to Dallas - one of the few downsides to not living
What I love is the subtle approach of the filmmaker, director Gotz
Spielmann, who obviously is a keen observer of people - moreso, I would
guess, than a film buff. As a viewer, we thoroughly believe this story
would play out this way because these people are reacting to real
Johannes Krisch is captivating and powerful as Alex, one of the brutes
working at a brothel. This is where he meets and falls for Tamara,
played touchingly by Irina Potapenko. Alex hatches a plan that will
allow the two to escape and start over. The plan goes well right up
until the end. That's when things get really interesting.
Alex is thrown unexpectedly into the real life of police officer Robert
(Andreas Lust) and his wife Susanne (fascinating acting from Ursula
Strauss). Alex drops out of society on his grandfather's (Johannes
Thanheiser) farm. The coincidences lead to a touch of comedy and also
some real soul searching from Robert, Susanne and Alex.
The film could have ended about three different ways and I couldn't
have been more happy with what we get. This is a rare film that should
be seen by many more than will have the opportunity. That's a shame..