Sun 28 Aug 2016
The second film that I have seen in the Czech film festival at our local cinematheque was a first long feature film by director Stepan Altrichter, actually a co-production between the German and Czech studios, mostly spoken in German, as the lead character, herr Schmitke is German. The use of the language is justified by the story which has as one of its themes the encounter between the Eastern and Western worlds at the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Herr Schmitke is an engineer, a smart one, but a little bit overcome by the technology, or the society around or both. He invented or had a great contribution in the invention of the wind turbines that populate the hills of Europe, but now he is suddenly retrograded to the position of maintaining and fixing the old models, and on the first assignment is sent across the border in the Czech Republic, together with a young colleague. There is more than one border to cross – there are borders in language, in age, in attitude to work, but the most obvious one is the change of landscape. We are in the Czech mountains, the forest surrounds everything, spirits are haunting it, people disappear.
The premises are quite good and the film succeeds to maintain interest for about half of its duration. The low-key style of acting of Peter Kurth actually helps, I liked it. The problem is that after setting the stage for a mountain mystery, or a forest horror movie (anybody remembers The Blair Witch Project?), or maybe even better – a political metaphor about the abyss yet to be filled between the Western and Eastern sectors of the not-so-unified Europe, the story becomes completely confused, the action divides into 3 or 4 threads, none makes too much sense, none provides any answer to the questions that the viewer may have about the fate of the characters (or even of the wind turbine). It’s like several endings were put filmed, and the director could not decide which one to leave, so he left them all. The non-German characters are presented in a stereotypical and negative manner – if this was supposed to be some political comment, it was quite gross to my taste.
Schmitke starts well, but confuses and even bores towards the end.