NYFF Spotlight: Dreileben

Posted by Nicholas Kemp on 9.14.2011

Dreileben

Film: Dreileben
Directors: Christian Petzold, Dominik Graf and Christoph Hochhäusler
Program: Special Events
Tickets: Oct 1, Oct 4-6

Why you should see it:
Above all else, Dreileben is an engrossing and intensely watchable experiment in cinematic storytelling. Born of a correspondence between three key directors of the so-called “Berlin School” of German cinema, this trio of interlocking films revolves around a single event, the escape of a murderer and sex offender from a hospital in a small town in central Germany. In genre, style and tone, however, the three films could hardly be more distinct.

Christian Petzold’s Beats Being Dead (Etwas Besseres als den Tod) is a tragedy of young love between an orderly at the hospital with a promising future ahead of him and a down-and-out, and somewhat unstable, Bosnian refugee who works as a housekeeper at a nearby hotel. The manhunt that unites the three films is mostly relegated to the background as Petzold explores the romantic angst caused by the divergence in the young lovers’ weltanschauungs, only to rear it’s ugly head in a series of terrifying scenes at the film’s end.

Dominik Graf’s Don’t Follow Me Around (Komm mir nicht nach) brings the audience closer to the main event by following a big-city police psychologist brought in to help with the search for the escaped convict. However, we are quickly diverted again by her discovery of systematic police corruption in the area and her reunion with an old friend, with whom she is staying while in town. Over quite a few glasses of red wine, the two friends discover that they once dated the same man at the same time without knowing it, a revelation with distinct and important implications for each woman.

In Christoph Hochhäusler’s riveting thriller One Minute of Darkness (Eine Minute Dunkel), the audience is finally brought into the point of view of the escaped felon himself, as well as that of the gruff police inspector in charge of recapturing him. While the felon creates a surprisingly tender bond with a young runaway he meets in hiding, the inspector begins to question his guilt after studying the original case that landed him behind bars. Laced with visual callbacks to the first two films and a nail-biting concluding sequence, Dreileben’s final chapter delivers ample payoff on the audience’s investment in the series.

Track record:
Berlinale; Toronto International Film Festival.

About the directors:
Dreileben’s three directors are among the shining stars of the "Berlin School" of modern German cinema. The most familiar of the bunch, Christian Petzold’s recent credits include: Jerichow (2008), which was nominated for a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival; Yella (2007), which was nominated for a Golden Berlin Bear at Berlinale and won prizes for editor Bettina Böhler and actress Nina Hoss; and Gespenster (2005), another Golden Berlin Bear nominee. Dominik Graf is a prolific and award-winning director of German film and television programming whose 2002 feature A Map of the Heart also received a Golden Berlin Bear nomination. Christoph Hochhäusler is a well-known German critic whose recent work as a filmmaker has earned him increasing acclaim.

What the critics are saying:
Phil Coldiron for Slant Magazine: “Happily, I can report that Dreileben, a triptych film made of parts by Christian Petzold, Dominik Graf, and Christoph Hochhausler, takes this fragmented approach and makes something genuinely worth being called Faulknerian with it. The result of a conversation among the three on the state of German cinema, the film sets off from a central event—the escape of a convicted murderer, Molesche (an alternately blank and delirious Stefan Kurt), while visiting the body of his dead foster mother at a nursing home—and tells three tenuously connected stories that in concert present a brutal vision of a world on a wire.”

What the NYFF programmers say:
"Over the last few years we’ve done a number of screenings of works that were originally designed for television: the Red Riding Trilogy a few years ago, Carlos and Mysteries of Lisbon last year. Dreileben is a three-part series of films with three completely different directors, but they’re all about the same incident. They’re about a murder that takes place in a small town in Germany and each film looks at the murder from a different point of view—one from the point of view of other townspeople, one from the police investigating it, and one from the murderer himself. There’s a little bit of overlap in all of them, but really we are looking at one incident from three different points of view, three different directors, three different cinematic styles. It’s a fascinating project that was unveiled at Berlin this year; Scott Foundas, Dennis Lim and I all saw it and were quite impressed by it and so we are delighted to have it here in the festival." —Richard Peña, Program Director

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