Monday, September 26, 2011

NYFF 2011: Dreileben Parts 1,2 and 3 (2011)

Much like last years Carlos or the previous years Red Riding Trilogy this is a three part television drama, this time from Germany. The films are running twice, October 1 in a six hour marathon (each 90 minute part has a half hour break between them) or the next week over one part a day over three days.

The answer to whether you should see the films is a complicated one. The short answer is that as seperate films two of the three films are absolutely worth seeing, however as one long film the film is disappointing (It doesn't hang together). I'm mixed as to whether to say it's worth the time to see the films in the theater or if you should wait.

Now That I've revealed my reservations at the start, I suggest you stick with me as I explain (and hopefully manage to keep the press pass) why I'm unsure as to whether I want to recommend this long haul in the movies.

I should also tell you THERE WILL BE SPOILERS so if you don't want to know stop now.

Dreileben is three kind of, sort of related films dealing with what happens in Dreileben when a murderer escapes from the police. Each film is nominally (ultimately barely) related to the other films through the escaped killer and a few cursory characters. The trouble is that each film bends the reality of the central escape story to such a degree that they all would have been better as individual films unconnected to each other.

Part 1: Beats Being Dead
The story is really a doomed romance between Johannes, a young hospital orderly studying to be a doctor and Ana a girl he meets. He has a relationship with the daughter of the chief doctor, but she is away at school. Late one night, after falling asleep by the side of the lake, he meets Ana after she is left stranded by her boyfriend. The pair soon are a couple but the return of the doctor's daughter complicates things.

Coloring this is the background search for Molosch, an escaped criminal. Molosch escaped when Johannes accidentally left a secret door open when he was trying to find a patient that had wandered off. Molosch remains mostly a background figure who only really appears at the end of the film.

The film unto itself is an okay pot boiler. Its the sort of film that Lifetime might buy to fill in a dead spot on it's TV schedule. Its not bad, but nothing you haven't seen before. Actually the only real twist is who Johannes runs off with, it's out of character but really necessary since without it you can't have the ending the first film in the series requires.

The real flaw in this film is the over playing the foreshadowing of doom. You know its going to end badly because of the way the movie is shot and because the completely wrong for a romance, but good for a slasher film, score won't let you forget it.(actually the ending has a couple of illogical jumps of character that Jason Vorhees or Freddy Kruger would love).

Ultimately it's an artificial little story that I really didn't much care for. Frankly, I called John, one of my partners here at Unseen Films, who was going to cover the film, to say that he was right to stay home because it was looking like I had wasted my day coming into to see the films.

Fortunately things improved.

Part 2: Don't Follow Me Around
This part is barely connected to the first film, thanks to the crossing paths of some characters, the central conceit of the escaped killer and the ultimate resolution of everything (Though it throws up a few twists that are never ever mentioned anywhere else in either of the other two films two films). To be perfectly honest had they not forced a connection to the first and third films, and they had just told the central story you'd have potentially one of the best films of the year, but as it stands now with the film's forced connections and several loose ends it sinks the film to the level of a very good drama (I should say that this part is the real reason to see the Dreileben Trilogy)

The film begins when Jo leaves her daughter in the care of her parents and goes to Dreileben to help try and capture the escaped killer. When a hotel reservation is messed up she is forced to stay with her friend Vera and her husband. During the course of the stay Jo and Vera realize that 15 years earlier, just before they had met, they had both been involved with the same man. The main thrust of the film is the dance that the two women and Vera's husband do when old feelings are reawakened....

...meanwhile Jo investigates the shooting of a police officer by another one who claims that he had turned into an animal...

...and in an after thought Jo discovers that Molosch, you remember Molosch (the escaped killer?), was having a pen pal relationship with a porn model,now dead, who has a semi-twin who just happens to be in the village for a carving contest.(Yes that's what happens, but it plays out a bit less stupid then it sounds.)

If you forget all of the police crap, which is easy to do, this is an excellent little drama. The characters are real, the emotions raw and you get the sense that someone behind the story knew of what they spoke. Frankly, I loved the drama and wish they had not had to connect it to anything else.

What is the escaped killer/police stuff doing here? It doesn't belong. It was clearly not wanted by the filmmakers who treat it in an off handed way. I mean there is a killer on the loose, but do we get that? No, we get police corruption. Why? Why not. As for the Molosch bits, mostly its just a figure that's suppose to be him running around, until we get a sudden flash that it's all over. Its a waste of time and it ruins the great story of two friends coming together and finding out about each other.

As I said this section could have and should have been one of the best films of the year but the need to connect it to the other films lessens it.

That said, it's definitely worth seeing if you get the chance.

Part 3: One Minute to Darkness
This is the story of Molosch from his escape in the hospital until we see what happens to Ana at the end of the first part. Other than those two events which are re-staged here, you can forget everything you learned about Molosch in the previous two films since pretty much none of it has any relationship to the events here.

The plot of the film has Molosch escaping through the secret door and pursued by the police. They are partly lead by a detective who is having inner ear problems. We get scenes of Molosch stealing food and trying to find shelter, along with the police stumbling around. We also have the detective becoming suspicious of what really happened when the girl Molosch was convicted of killing, died.

Shot through with mood, this film is, if you take it on it's own terms, pretty good. Two people I spoke with at the screening had only come in for this film and they liked it as the off kilter thriller it is. When they asked me what I thought I had to say I wasn't all that thrilled with it because it pretty much tosses out everything that went before leaving huge plot holes and loose ends. To be certain the film has tons of loose ends of its own, but they nothing compared to what you get with the films that preceded it.

As a conclusion to a trilogy, even a loosely connected one, this film is weak. As a film on it's own, its a film that is tense and creepy andworth seeing.

For me thats the problem you have three films that work on their own but not together. Seeing the films in one sitting makes it very clear that as good as the pieces are, they don't make a greater whole.

Why the hell did they bother to tie these films together? That's question that has haunted me since I saw the films last week.

What was the point? Yes, there are some connections and some repeated themes but mostly this is three separate and unique films that were ruined by being forcibly connected to each other. Had the films had not been connected you'd have a fair romance, an excellent drama and a very good police thriller. As it is you now have a just okay trilogy of films that collapses under the weight of the inconsistencies they throw up. Had they left it as three stories set in the same town you might have had three must see films instead of one wildly over long behemoth that is probably best seen curled up over a few slow days on your couch.

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