Courageous, Radical, Extraordinary

in 38th World Film Festival Montreal

by Kirsten Liese

With a demanding programme Montreal underlined its importance under the international festivals in the 38th iteration, likely the most difficult year in the history of this festival in regard to its serious economic problems. On the edge of the presentations employees collected signatures for the preservation of the festival. The most important argument for its future was the exquisite choice in productions. At the Montreal World Film Festival, one has no reservations with sensitive, uncomfortable subjects and questions. Particularly the German-speaking cinema gave its pearls to the World Competition. It was in any respect as strong as seldom at other festivals beyond Germany.

The Last Dance (Der letzte Tanz) by Houchang Allahyari, the only Austrian production beside three productions from Germany, was probably the most radical outstanding film. It is about sexuality at a great age, terrible conditions in geriatric situations and a wrong world in which people are treated as dangerous criminals, who bring just a little love in nursing homes. It follows a young man about 20, doing community service, who develops a special interest in the 87-year-old patient Julia. In the beginning he wants to give only some pleasure to the depressive, grouchy woman, however his special attention releases unexpected feelings with the patient. She opens up to him, finds joy in her life again, remembers her beauty in the youth and falls in love with the intelligent, introverted young trainee, who is different than other men of his age. Overpowered by erotic feelings she seduces her male nurse, who gets involved willingly in the sexual adventure and ruins with it, in the end, his life. The intimate play, which remembers of course of the famous play “Harold and Maude”, fascinates with magnificent actors, pictures of big tenderness and a distinctive artistic intuition.

Subtlety, complex characters, enormous tension, a clever psychology and great actors distinguish also the very remarkable German drama The Summer House (Curtis Burz).

Here we are faced with a family of the upper-middle class that seems to have everything. That could equate to happiness, but this family finds itself in a big crisis for several reasons: the father, Markus, has obviously lost any sexual interest in his wife. He meets secretly with gay men, but feels even more attracted to the little son of his colleague with whom he spends a lot of time, while his wife and his little daughter are drowning in unbearable loneliness. For a long time it is vague, whether the protagonist will keep up just platonic feelings or try to abuse the boy, but at the end he is able to control his belongings. This does not mean that the director plays down the topic; he simply doesn’t criminalise people with such inclinations. What I like specially about this complex film is that no person is inherently good or bad in moral regard — even the boy becomes not a victim and knows how to take advantage of the delicate dynamic. Honestly and cleverly the director observes that sometimes children are going to act and help themselves, if their parents fall in agony. It doesn’t matter whether they find a sensible or fatal solution like at the end of this film.

Another very interesting unusual and eccentric character is The Chambermaid Lynn (Ingo Haeb), who suffers of several neuroses and satisfies her sexual curiosity by peeping the guests of the hotel where she is working, lying underneath their beds at night. It is a film which impresses with its very special, unusual story but as well with good entertainment and some humour.

The most ambitious film in political regard was the drama The Limits of Patience (Christian Wagner). It is an adaptation of the book of the same title by the Berliners juvenile judge Kirsten Heisig.

To adapt a non-fiction book is indeed not an easy task, particularly as the author of the book gives little information about herself. But it is remarkable how Christian Wagner manages to develop a story out of the authors implementation about the sluggishness of justice, omissions of schools and youth welfare departments and bad experiences with mostly migrants from Arab countries, who do not like to be educated. In the film, the judge — played by the wonderful actress Martina Gedeck — is called Corinna Kleist, who is first alone with her idea to punish very aggressive youngsters much harder in order to prevent them to become criminal again and again. In the beginning even her colleagues don’t like her ideas and consider them to be useless. But more and more the judge succeeds to pull people on her side. Wagner develops this process with big emotions and nail-biting tension.

Edited by Jake Howell