Reel Affirmations 2006
Review by Nancy Legato
Rating: (5 out of 5)
Sunday, 10/15/2006, 7:00 PM
Feature presentation, $9 at Landmark’s E Street Cinema
German with English subtitles
NINA’S GOT BIG problems — and she only knows the half of them. Running away from her juvenile home for orphans to join the entrancing Toni in a life of petty crime and teenage love is just the beginning of a haphazard journey through other people’s desperate passions.
At first, Nina and Toni seem to have mutually rescued one another from isolation in the rough seas of Berlin’s teenage underclass. Nina, playing hooky from her work crew in a park, saves Toni from a violent end at the hands of some local men. Toni brings Nina into the only life she can offer as a shoplifter and petty thief. However, as her experiences with Toni soon prove, Nina’s new life won’t protect her from the personal agendas of people older and more powerful than she, but only offer a new array of pressures and prurient interests. There’s the married casting director who may or may not truly be captivated by Nina and Toni’s acting abilities. And there’s Francoise, an older woman in perpetual search for her long-lost daughter, who was abducted at the age of three and might now be Nina’s age — and might even be Nina. And there’s Toni herself, who might not be what Nina thinks.
Each person that Nina meets offers a glimpse of an oasis in the desert: a lover, a mentor, a mother who might somehow replace the parents. But as she responds to each, Nina finds every gesture of warmth undermined by uncertain grounding in the potential rescuer’s emotional damage. Julia Hummer and Sabine Timoteo offer subtle performances as teenagers hungry for love and security and jaded by repeated wounding to their young personhood.
Director Christian Petzold provides a sobering look into lives eviscerated by longing and misappropriated solutions to long-thwarted emotional needs. It’s not uplifting, but it does have the bittersweet ring of one young girl’s truth. — NL