Following on from the exorcism drama Requiem and the Stasi surveillance thriller The Lives of the Others, Longing is further evidence of the current resurgence in German cinema. The first full-length feature of writer-director Valeska Grisebach, whose acclaimed graduation film Be My Star gained a limited British release in 2002, it’s a deceptively simple and low-key account of a love triangle, which unfolds in the countryside outside of Berlin.
Markus (Andreas Müller) is a metalworker and volunteer fireman, who is deeply in love with his devoted wife Ella (Ilka Welz), who was his childhood sweetheart. But on a training weekend with his fire service colleagues, he sleeps with a waitress Rose (Anett Dornbusch), and finds himself torn between the two women.
Like the Dardenne brothers, Grisebach is sparing in her use of dialogue and she focuses on the material and the physical – whether it’s shots of faces, landscapes or objects - allowing us to ponder the inner lives of these three individuals, who are all shaken by the intensity of their feelings.
Sex and death are intertwined in Longing, paving the way for the tragic conclusion. ‘Life itself is a puff of air – suddenly it’s gone,’ observes one stranger, and it’s as though Markus is propelled by his direct confrontation with mortality during the very opening scene, in which he attends the aftermath of a double suicide bid, into acting on his erotic desires. Impressively performed by the non-professional cast, Longing is also blessed with a Brechtian coda that provides an unexpectedly fresh perspective on the preceeding events. (Tom Dawson)
Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 10 Aug. GFT, Glasgow, Mon 20 & Tue 21 Aug.