Thursday, June 12, 2014
West(2013) Kino 2014
A confession- I went into WEST with a half-assed attitude. I was in the middle of trying to cover a good number of the films that were playing as part of the KINO Festival of German Films as well as the Human Rights Watch Film Festival which runs concurrently and I was getting overwhelmed. Too many films, too little time- just get through the film and then try and make a posting deadline.
Then somewhere about a twenty minutes into WEST I had the "oh shit" moment where I was like I can't be watching this with only half of my brain. I can't let the film just sort of wash over me and then toss off a half thought out piece by rote. WEST wasn't something that deserved to be half watched it needed my full attention- so I backed up the screener and I started again.
WEST is the story of Nelly Senff. Living in East Germany (its set in 1978) she decides to move with her son to the West after her boyfriend is killed in a car accident in Russia. With no family to help her settle in she is placed in a holding zone which is difficult but manageable. However things become complicated when various intelligence agencies begin to come sniffing around wondering if her boyfriend really did die and whether or not she and her son are in fact spies.
I had expected a dark, almost melodramatic look at the shattering of illusions, instead I found an much more complex film about a time rapidly receding into the the past. The film is both troubling and hopeful. Its an examination of a time gone by as well as a damn good human drama.
That the film works is due in large part to Jördis Triebel as Nelly. She manages to make our heroine so many things and ultimately completely compelling.We watch the film for no other reason than we somehow manages to fall in love with her from the first instant she's on screen and we stayed glued her all the way until the end. Its a masterful performance, one that is far from show or spectacular, but completely real. There is a reason that Triebel has either won or been nominated for numerous awards- simply put she gives one of the great performances you're going to see all year.
While I want very much to tell you to rush out and see the film tonight when it opens the Kino Festival here in New York, I know that most of you won't get a chance to do it, so I want you all to promise to rush out and see this when it opens in a regular run later in the year. trust me you'll thank me when you're done.