Nina Hoss won the best actress Silver Lion at the Berlin Film Festival for her turn as Yella. Uniting with director Christian Petzold for a third time (Wolfsburg and Something to Remind Me being their previous efforts) Hoss plays an East German divorcee fed up by a succession of dead-end jobs who is also being hounded by her ex-husband (Hinnerk Schönemann).
She decides to move to the West to take a job in an accounting firm but her turmoil is not complete as she reluctantly allows her former husband to drive her to the airport. He drives off a bridge and Yella just about escapes. Yet the experience transforms Yella in the most surprising ways.
Watching the transformation of Yella is as mesmerising as the steely transformation at the heart of Steven Soderbergh’s largely comparable Erin Brockovich. Petzold and screenwriter Simone Baer attempt to investigate bigger social themes such a woman’s place in society and post-unification problems in Germany. The sound design is remarkable as many of the hints that the past is catching up on Yella are given through echoes and unusual sounds.
The denouement of Yella (without giving too much away), however, is a huge disappointment. Throughout his career, Petzold has been interested in the metaphysical (his last film Gespenter is a prime example). It’s a compulsion that may just prove to be this fascinating filmmaker’s undoing.
GFT, Glasgow, from Fri 21–Thu 27 Sep.