How about this for an enjoyably overwrought contemporary German melodrama? Traude Kruger (Monica Bleibtreu) suffered the trauma of seeing her female communist lover hung by the Nazis during WWII, and has spent the last 60 years teaching piano to female prisoners at Luckau jail. Her life is thrown into turmoil, though, by the arrival of a violent new inmate, Jenny (Hannah Herzsprung), a teenage murderer who has been sexually abused by her own father. Jenny, it turns out, was also a former child prodigy at the piano. Will she be prepared to adhere to Traude’s strict practice regime, and attempt to compete in a national competition?
Writer-director Chris Kraus offers the viewer scant chance to breathe in Four Minutes, orchestrating a series of savage beatings, frenzied bursts of musical performance (Jenny can even work wonders at the piano while handcuffed) and blazing arguments, with sun-drenched flashbacks to Traude’s lesbian past offering some visual relief from the oppressive prison environment. And in her first leading role Herzsprung proves to be a compelling actress, unafraid to convey the anger coursing through her damaged character. She delivers a powerfully intense solo recital in the film’s concert hall climax.
GFT, Glasgow, Fri 18–Mon 21 Apr; Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Fri 25 Apr–Thu 1 May.