FINSTERWORLD (Frauke Finsterwald, 2013)
34 West 13th St.
Monday, June 16, 9:30, and Tuesday, June 17, 4:00 & 9:30
Festival continues through June 19
Journalist and documentarian Frauke Finsterwalder’s twisted and dark feature-length fiction debut, Finsterworld, paints a rather unflattering portrait of a modern-day Germany still haunted by World War II. Written by Finsterwalder (Die große Pyramide, Weil der Mensch ein Mensch ist) and her author husband, Christian Kracht, the black comedy follows a dozen interrelated characters, each with his or her own personal hang-ups and fetishes, as they go through one very wild and crazy day. Claude Petersdorf (Michael Maertens) is a pedicurist who has an unnatural desire for the feet of Frau Sandberg (Margit Carstensen), a wheelchair-bound resident of an old age home. Her son, Georg Sandberg (Bernhard Schütz), and his wife, Inga (Corinna Harfouch), are a wealthy, self-obsessed couple who are embarrassed to be Germans. Their son, Maximilian (Jakub Gierszał), is a spoiled brat who, with his best friend, Jonas (Max Pellny), bullies quirky-nerdy fellow students Natalie (Carla Juri) and Dominik (Leonard Scheicher) during a class trip to a concentration camp led by teacher Lehrer Nickel (Christoph Bach), who thinks the kids can actually learn something from the sins of the past. Tom (Ronald Zehrfeld) is a cop who likes to put on a different kind of uniform at times — he’s a closet Furry. Tom’s girlfriend, Franziska Feldenhoven (Sandra Hüller), is a frustrated documentary filmmaker stuck with a boring subject. And Einsiedler (Johannes Krisch) is a hermit who captures and cares for a forest raven. Various odd actions intersect, bringing the diverse cast of characters together in strange, ultimately dangerous ways as they all keep picking at their scabs, both physical and psychological.
Finsterwalder bookends Finsterworld with Cat Stevens’s “The Wind,” in which the folkie who changed his name to Yusuf Islam sings, “I swam upon the devil’s lake / But never never never never / I’ll never make the same mistake / No, never never never,” but in Finsterwalder’s bleak yet complex vision of contemporary Germany, every generation is doomed to repeat those mistakes, in one way or another. The award-winning film will be making its East Coast premiere June 16-17 at the Quad as part of the Kino! Festival of German Films, with Finsterwalder on hand to talk about the wonderfully paced, beautifully photographed work. In addition, she and Kracht will be at NYU’s Deutches Haus on June 17 at 6:30 for the discussion “Finsterworld: From Script to Screen,” moderated by teacher and journal editor Eric Jarosinski (free with advance RSVP). Kino! continues through June 19 with such other films as Sabine Lidl’s Nan Goldin — I Remember Your Face, Noël Dernesch and Moritz Springer’s Journey to Jah, Denis Dercourt’s A Pact, and Maximilian Erlenwein’s Stereo.