Longing

"Excellent"

Longing Review


After the (roughly) 7 million films concerning male unfaithfulness that were put out in the last decade, a film like Valeska Grisebach's Longing shouldn't be as effective as it is. It's not new in even the slightest of ways: a goodhearted, married metalworker goes on a small trip with his volunteer fire brigade, gets drunk and messes around with another woman. No awakening of one's own sexuality (Unfaithful) or study of the male psyche and marriage (I Think I Love My Wife): It's simple and hushed, and that might be the key to the whole dang thing.

Grisebach has been directing since a 1993 stint at the Vienna Film Academy, but Longing is only her second film, after the festival-weary Be My Star. Her sophomore effort uncovers a lilting but certain grasp on storytelling and naturalism that tends away from the current German cinematic climate. Though Germany has recently come back into light with its Oscar win for The Lives of Others, the country hasn't produced a film as luminous and honest as Grisebach's in years. No wonder it's being relegated to a short run at New York City's holy Anthology Film Archives.

The man who plays Markus, the distraught volunteer fireman, goes by the name of Andreas Muller and seems to have been chosen for his look of naïve guilt and bumbling innocence. When he wakes up in the bed of Rose (Anett Dornbusch), the waitress he fooled around with, he is nearly wordless and leaves without any intention of returning, as it seems. His return, touted as a boyfriend in front of the waitress's family, doesn't come with any sense of dramatic reconnection. In fact, his return looks to be per chance until they go into a small bedroom and fool around after dinner. When it does end, the relationship dies silently until someone accidentally takes a header off a hotel balcony.

Grisebach plays nearly every scene as a sonata of glances, deep sighs, and useless smiles from one person to another. That her longest shot consists of Markus dancing to Robbie Williams' "I Wanna Feel Real Love" attests to a daring spirit, unveiling embarrassment and awkwardness for the sake of honesty rather than humor. When he returns home to his loving wife (Ilka Welz), there is no noticeable difference in his demeanor; they speak openly about how endless their love is for each other. Still, the news of the affair becomes more internalized, played across Muller's plain face painfully as his wife sobs.

The two catastrophes that lead to the film's sublime afterword create a sort of ellipsis to the two main characters' stories. Markus trots out to his garage and sits down next to a bunny that sits in a cage that was built by Markus' own hands. The bunny crawls up into Markus' arms and is petted, only to be returned to its trapping. Then Markus takes out a gun and leans the barrel into his chest. Grisebach builds monumental tension in these moments, grief billowing out of Markus' chestnut strands of hair. As children tell the story again in the epilogue, the essence of the story's heartbreak is lost, but that seems half the point. When it's second hand news, these stories always seem so day-to-day and inconsequential to human existence. Then, we go through it and we realize what's wrong.

Aka Sehnsucht.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 88 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 7th September 2006

Distributed by: Piffl Medien GmbH

Production compaines: Benedikt Pictures GmbH & Co. KG (München), Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR)

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 12 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 6.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Valeska Grisebach

Producer: Peter Rommel

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