Yella

"Good"

Yella Review


Perhaps characteristic of many a debut feature, German filmmaker Christian Petzold's uneasy yet promising Yella feels tied to the centric image of the nerve-wracked heroine who gives it its title. Wide-eyed and coiled, Yella (Nina Hoss) is first seen in the film's opening measures on a train heading home. She is present for nearly every scene that precedes this initial, alluring moment. The lady leaves the train and immediately begins to be accosted by a man, a man who obviously knows her intimately but whose identity we do not yet know

Much of Petzold's seduction, which is held consistently until the film's rote final moments, lies in the fact that we are rarely completely aware of the entanglements and deep emotional tides that run under each scene and inside each character. That we eventually discover that this man is Yella's unhinged ex-husband (Hinnerk Schönemann) is expected, but the way it is revealed shows a patience and assurance that belies both the filmmaker's age and the decisions he makes at the very end of his film.

After regrettably allowing her ex to give her a ride to the train station, Yella ends up on the side of the river next to her unconscious (dead?) ex, his car at the bottom of the tributary. Making her way to Hanover for a new job and a fresh start, the heroine arrives and finds the company she was hired by is being dismantled and emptied. The director, who wrote the screenplay with casting director Simone Bär, gives much of the dialogue to other characters, relegating much of Hoss' performance to poise and physicality. It is through only the slightest flicker of the eye that she meets Phillip, a business consultant who asks her to help him with a few presentations after he catches her staring at his spreadsheet.

The relationship between Yella and Phillip is peculiar. There's an obvious tension from the outset but there's also a sense of constant dread, evoked both by the score and by Petzold and cinematographer Hans Fromm's ethereal mis-en-scene. Phillip is played by the excellent Devid Striesow, who you probably remember as the mangiest of the Nazi hierarchy in last year's The Counterfeiters. Striesow has a knack for playing with space, somehow blending into Petzold's scheme without rendering his performance innocuous. The fact that Hoss and Striesow can both conjure such unassuming drama is a large part of why Petzold's film so continuously holds the viewer spellbound.

The twist ending that softens the blow of this otherwise unique and atmospheric work is not for me to ruin, but it should be said that it shows a chink in the filmmaker's armor. Yella would not be a great film even without the buffoonish ending, but it would be a daring one. The road Petzold eventually chooses for Yella, and Phillip to a lesser extent, comes easily and cheapens the hushed sentiments the film had clearly and beautifully voiced beforehand. It also shows a common thread that Petzold shares with many other debut filmmakers: a hesitancy in ambition.



Yella

Facts and Figures

Run time: 89 mins

In Theaters: Friday 16th May 2008

Budget: $30M

Distributed by: The Cinema Guild

Production compaines: Schramm Film Koerner & Weber, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), ARTE, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg GmbH

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Fresh: 42 Rotten: 10

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Christian Petzold

Producer: Florian Koerner von Gustorf

Starring: Nina Hoss as Yella, as Philipp, Hinnerk Schönemann as Ben, Burghart Klaußner as Dr. Gunthen, Barbara Auer as Barbara Gunthen, Wanja Mues as Sprenger, as Yellas Vater, Michael Wittenborn as Dr. Schmidt-Ott, Martin Brambach as Dr. Fritz, Joachim Nimtz as Prietzel, Selin Bademsoy as Dr. Gunthens Tochter, Peter Benedict as Friedrichs Anwalt

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