Life On A String

in 47th International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film

by Lars Tuncay

It all begins as a homevideo, an exercise for Berlin filmmaker Katharina Peters, recording her trip back to New York where she lived for several years to visit friends and to show her husband Boris her second home. Boris Baberkoff, a composer and cellist, who is about to sign a contract in New York, and Katharina are a newly-wed and happy couple, ready to take on the stumbling blocks of life together. But neither of them could have guessed what they will have to go through. Out of nowhere, Boris collapses, suffering from a brain-stem stroke. He is immediately taken to hospital and at first, chances of survival are small. But he recovers, but locked into his own brain. After his transfer to a German hospital, Boris finds his way back into the outside world. He starts to talk, learns to walk again and even starts to compose new music. But for his wife Katharina things are getting more and more difficult as she has to deal with the hospital bills, take care of Boris and try not to give up her own life at the same time.

Director Katharina Peter’s film Stroke tells a strong and moving story in both realistic and metaphoric images. Since it’s the story of her own life it directly affects the viewer through her very personal words and pictures. Dream sequences give an extra insight into her emotional state. But the strength of Stroke lies in the way she shows both the happy moments of hope and regeneration, as well as the moments of concern and even hate towards his inability to deal with even the easiest elements of everyday life. This and Boris’ way of expressing his relief at being `alive´ again and his love for Katharina that brought him back to life, give Stroke the human touch that makes it this year`s winner of the FIPRESCI prize in Leipzig. Although the ending is rather abrupt, an epilogue makes the film a complete and convincing effort.

Lars Tunçay