Final Girls Berlin 2021 review: ‘Time Of Moulting’ (Fellwechselzeit) will take patience.

TIME OF MOULTING

In a small town in 1970s West Germany, Stephanie is an intelligent and lively child living an insular life with her parents. She senses that something is wrong in her family, something that cannot be put into words, and she pushes against it where she can. Unspoken maladies lurk beneath the surface of everyday life and insidiously seeps into who she is. Neither she nor her parents have contact with others, and she falls into a symbiotic relationship with her mentally unstable mother Sybille. Sybille has never really left her own childhood behind and lives a life amidst objects and shadows of the past. Stephanie’s father offers neither support, love, nor normalcy. Stephanie withdraws more and more into herself and the passing years bring only ageing, but no future with them. Stephanie flees early from her life’s narrowness and hopelessness into an inner world of dark fantasies, which are nourished by traces of the past. Fellwechselzeit is a heavily atmospheric and harrowing portrait of the ways in which oppressive and repressed family dynamics can influence and infect the lives of younger generations– not tangible, not namable, but inexorable. Inner abysses form the only escape route for an undernourished soul.

You have to stick with filmmaker Sabrina Mertens‘ style choice here. TIME OF MOULTING is one of the most intentional slow-burn films establishing the cyclical nature of mental illness I’ve ever seen outside of a documentary. As the camera sits and watches these drawn-out, often silent scenes, we get a small peek inside the world of a family that has chosen isolation. The film does a 10-year time jump only to find our young protagonist worse off than before. She has been simmering in the childhood of her mother and is acting out with self-harm and increasingly violent drawings and fantasies. This film is not for everyone. You have to have the patience to make it to the end. The visual impact of Time of Moulting is massive. We hear over and over that the family cat has urinated on the furniture. We see each room accumulate more garbage/objects. Stephanie’s fascination with her grandfather’s slaughterhouse tools will make you so uncomfortable you will feel it on your bones. Performances are outstanding. This film challenges the audience to its breaking point.

DIRECTED BY SABRINA MERTENS, GERMANY, 2020

Starring Zelda Espenschied and Miriam Schiweck

Fantasia 2020 review: ‘SLEEP’ is a waking nightmare.

Marlene, a woman plagued by horrific dreams, suffers a breakdown in a remote village. As her daughter Mona follows, she comes upon a well-kept family secret and an old curse that ultimately threatens her life – a never-ending nightmare.

I can finally relax my entire body after watching Fantasia 2020’s Sleep. The mystery that unfolds has such a tight grip that I was tense from head to toe with anxiety, much in the same physical manner as our matriarch Marlene. Two brilliant women inhabit the roles of mother-daughter team, Marlene and Mona. Sandra Hüller, from what should have been 2017 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, TONI ERDMANN) and Gro Swantje Kohlhof, ( Nothing Bad Can Happen –  one of the most unsettling films I’ve ever seen and written about) make for an intriguing balance on screen. For what little interaction they actually have from scene to scene, you genuinely believe they are connected.

The scares are intensely scored and intriguingly edited. The script by Thomas Friedrich is weird from the beginning. The performances have this unnerving, larger than life essence to them. You can feel something is very off about everything and everyone. Overly excited, excessively nice and informative, to unusually angry for no apparent reason. Sleep is like a living, breathing panic attack. The cinematic dynamics are stunning. The plot feels a little like a twisted hereditary version of Nightmare on Elm Street. But then you have a bloodline double entendre thrown in. It’s quite complex but extremely entertaining. As someone who has had reoccurring dreams her entire life, Michael Venus ‘ direction of SLEEP disturbed me to no end. And if you’re anything like me, you will continue to question what is real long after the credits roll.

To find out more about Fantasia 2020 and how to watch SLEEP click here

Review: Alice Rohrwacher’s ‘The Wonders’ Is an Intriguing and Sometimes Bizarre Deep Dive into Family Dynamics

The Wonders_PosterIt’s been a while since I rapped at you all, so it’s nice to get back on the horse with a really interesting film. Alice Rohrwacher‘s The Wonders is as unique a film as I’ve seen this year, one in which we have all been overloaded with superheroes and super spies. It’s little films like these that occupy the nether regions of the cinematic universe that glue it all together.

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The film follows a family of beekeepers in rural Italy trying to make an honest living and create something beautiful from the land they inhabit. The patriarch, Wolfgang (Sam Louwyck), ostensibly runs the operation, but it’s really his talented daughter Gelsomina (Maria Alexandra Lungu) that is brains of the operation. She has a preternatural understanding of the bees and the honey harvesting operations, something her father seems to have to resent. Along with her sisters and a family friend, the family trundles along doing their best to build a strong business. Two things disrupt their lives and throw the world they know into upheaval – the family takes in Martin (Luis Huilca), a juvenile delinquent from Germany, and the interest of a television show looking for the best Countryside Wonders. Both promise much needed money to upgrade their operations and help provide a stronger base. However, Wolfgang doesn’t want to train the boy (that duty falls to Gelsomina) and he doesn’t want to whore out his family in an effort to win what equates to a reality TV show competition, something that is at odds with nearly everyone else in the family. As one might expect, the family dynamics shift and change and very few things go according to plan.

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While it might not seem that a drama about beekeeping could hold one’s interest for the 105 minute running time of the film, I can assure you it does. Rohrwacher‘s bold choices in location as well as the incredible cinematography work of DP Hélène Louvart (who also shot Wim Wnders‘ incredible doc Pina) creates a singularly unique experience. The color palette mimics the feeling of the characters, the land they inhabit. You feel totally immersed in the experience of these characters because Rohrwacher orchestrates all of these components like a symphony.

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One of my favorite parts of the film is when the family, who is swimming after a long day of tending hives comes across the TV show shooting promotional spots for their upcoming contest. The ethereal nature of the shoot (seen in the picture above) is compounded by the presence of Milly (Monica Bellucci, whom I would argue is at the top of the list of the most beautiful women on Earth). Her presence in every scene she appears in carries with it the most dreamlike feeling, one that experienced most of all by Gelsomina. This adds an entirely new level of depth to the film and to the characters experiences.

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This is a really interesting film and one quite worthy of catching should you have the chance. This film is being distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories and The Match Factory, both top quality outfits. This film hit theaters on both coasts last week. Hopefully it will be expanding into your area soon.

Get there, people.

Liz’s Review: ‘Wetlands’… Gross and Glorious!

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I knew going into this film that the trailer alone was NSFW. I was in for a complete surprise when Wetlands as a whole blew the trailer way out of the water. Never have I ever experienced a movie so utterly disgusting and amazing at all once. Read More →