Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Festival of German Films 2

Offset (Didi Danquart, Germany, 2006)
By a fortunate twist of fate, I won tickets to Offset on Tuesday evening, which started soon after my first French class. The former was in Brighton and the latter in St. Kilda, so it was all very convenient. And the film turned out to be quite interesting and enjoyable, which has got to be a good thing.

Offset is set in Bucharest, Romania and is a French, German and Swiss co-production. It really is a curious film and uses German, Romanian, English and French dialogue. A young German-speaking Romanian woman (Alexandra Maria Lara as Brindusa) is marrying a German man (Felix Klare as Stefan) and they plan to move to Germany. But it is a complex plot - complex in terms of plot, culture, relationships and emotionally.

Right from the start I noticed that the cinematography was beautiful in an understated, naturalistic way - just the way I like it. I was tentative for much of the film, as it looked like it was setting itself up as a fairly stereotypical family drama/romance that could descend into comedy at a moment's notice. With confidence, the director completely steered away from just about every cliché and contrivance that could have been readily exploited at any time. This is sophisticated film-making.

The chemistry between the various characters was full of authenticity and their interactions were both natural and original. There was a language barrier between the respective parents of the young couple and the film captured their unease at dinner very effectively. Characters were mostly shades of grey, so that even the beauty of Brindusa did not eclipse her moral ambiguity.

The film appears to head for a certain direction, and when things turn dark, it becomes genuinely suspenseful. It was at this point that I realised this film was much more than just another mediocre story. It was intelligent, culturally complex and I highly recommend it, though I don't believe it will be commercially released in Australia. That's a real shame, because it's well-made and could easily have wide appeal. It's vastly superior to most family dramas that make it to our screens.

Previous post: Festival of German Films 1

Official website (German-language only) / IMDB


Anonymous said...

Hi Paul I have followed you over to her from your comments on the German Film Festival weblog. So just my first visit here. Congratulations it looks a great site and a valuable reference.

I made a decision to book ahead to see "Offset" based on the information in the festival booklet and also on the photo which you show here. I was disappointed to find that this is a picture of Brindusa and her father. Not the boss played by another actor.

Nici is played by Razvan Vasilescu and his physical appearance matches the arrogant and agressive nature of his character. So to my mind the image in the festival guide is not detailed enough as it misrepresents the relationship I expected between Brindusa and Nicu. Vasilescu is only 54 years old but with his beard and appearance it's stretching the imagination to see what the attractiion for Brindusa could be.

Alexandra must be Germany or Romania's answer to Cate Blanchett. She's got the same height at Cate, possibly even more beautiful and very graceful when moving.

But it goes to show you need to do your research and the film festival folk need to lift their game to a slightly higher level. Or I am going to have to spend more time than this year going to secondary sources like to screen and narrow down festival selections to avoid the duds.

It's not so much that "Offset" was a dud. It's more that I fail to see what any women could see in Nicu. Let alone a beautiful women like Brindusa. All he had was money and position. It was interesting to see him lose some of his power not being able to understand German when the problems with the german printing machine cropped up and he relied on Brindusa to do the translation.

Vasilescu at times also reminded me a lot of one of my wives cousins in Cyprus. Same sort of smile and manner. He too wielded some power in that family. One visit there was a house dating back to 1860. Next time he had bought the property for an eldery aunty for a song, knocked down the house and sold it at a huge profit as a carpark. No regard for history or sharing the proceeds of this windfall. So for me I don't really want to pay money to see characters like this on the screen

John from over at the weblog

Paul Martin said...

Hi John, thanks for dropping by and leaving your comments. I thought the boss was very authentic and I also thought the relationship with Brindusa was very authentic and believable. Sure, he wasn't mega-handsome but was good-looking for his age, charming (even if he is a sociopath, but sociopaths usually are charming when it suits them) and he had a fabulous house and car (ie wealth).

This is where the cultural aspect is important. This is Romania, a relatively impoverished European country. When the German relatives arrived, they were struck by the poverty. In countries like this, money is important. Remember You Are So Beautiful? The mail-order bride was also from Romania.

As a point of interest, I believe that Alexandra Maria Lara also played the secretary in The Downfall (Der Untergang).