Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 06, 2006 6:07 pm 
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A long day's journey into the mid-thrities

The German title Fallen means not only "to fall" but also "traps," a hint about what some of the characters have fallen into. This well-acted, intense, but slightly shallow film from Austria describes twenty-four hours shared by five thirty-something women who were friends when they were young (fourteen years back) and are reunited by the funeral of a former teacher. They decide to stay together afterward and go to a park, a wedding, a disco, etc., stay up all night, drink a lot of booze and smoke a lot of cigarettes and share a lot of memories and feelings. Barbara Albert planned Falling as a portrait of her generation (her characters are a range of types) and she used actresses whom she knew and set the action around the little town in Austria they all come from. Falling is funny, sad, strung out, tired, hysterical, and loving. It talks about a lot of things and reveals a lot about the women. But they do not tell each other everything; they don’t have to; they don’t want to. Toward the end something is revealed about one of them, who has her young teenage daughter with her, that she had hidden from the others. The best thing about the film is its natural performances. There is a lot of music, beginning with the naïve, born-again Christian chorus at the funeral singing hymns in English. Since being together evokes many memories, there are quick black and white flashbacks, fleeting flash-forwards too of things about to happen during the action of the film.

The women are the sad-faced, negative Nicole (Gabriella Hegedus), Brigitte (Birgit Minichmayhr), a shy teacher; Nina (Nina Proll), unemployed and pregnant (the father has been deported); Carmen (Kathrin Resetarits), a successful actress now working in Germany who was the wild one when she was young; and the insecure, substance-abusing Alex (Ursula Strauss), who works at a job-center. Nicole is with Daphne (Irna Strnad), her daughter, which turns out to be a violation of her parole that leads to trouble for her before the action ends and the revelation to the others that she has been in jail. An interesting detail is that Hegedus, who plays Nicole, has worked at women’s prisons, and incorporated her knowledge of women inmates into her character.

The film is intense and real (and at times ear-splittingly loud) as an evocation of a kind of feminine pre-midlife crisis bacchanale. It’s long on generational style (the way the women think and talk, the music they like) and revealed personality traits (if forcefully so more for Nicole, Carmen and Alex, than for the other two) but short on plot elements. There is plenty of atmosphere, but a meager supply of events. One would call it a process film except, what is the process? Perhaps one problem is the women have not done enough. None of them are married. They've been to Greece and Ceylon, and slept with the teacher, and had a boyfriend who died of an overdose. But so what? Few of them have achieved much, and that and their personalities give the proceedings a downbeat flavor (is that right for a whole generation? One hopes not.). Despite some lewd behavior and sexual excess and drunkenness, there are no outpoured revelations, no new developments. When it’s over, it’s over, and there’s not much to remember. And this is a shame because Albert obviously has talent, is a keen observer, produces clean, intense-looking images, works extremely well with actors (even the young one is impressive), and Austrian films are a rarity and ones about young women an even greater one. One can see the value of this as a unique entry in the year’s world film output, but it looks like Albert has done better before.

Falling has no U.S. distributor.

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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