By Sascha Krieger
Dollhouse (Panorama / Rep. of Ireland / Director: Kirsten Sheridan)
If there was a construction kit for films about disturbed teenagers, Dollhouse would be built from it. Pick a few teenagers, preferably from the lower social spheres, get an aggressive boy and an upperclass girl, give them an empty house, throw in alcohol and drugs, Add a big secret or two, finally some hip music and stir. And outcomes a film like Dollhouse, a wild housewrecking party with its fair share of stereotypically hallucinatory scenes a big surprise near the end and a long drawn-out ending that totally destroys the tone if the film. Dollhouse is entertaining at times, has one great sequence as one of the rooms get devorated by putting all furniture upside down. Nothing in Dollhouse is upside down though, this is a routine movie with nothing of its own. In Disco Pigs, her directorial debut, Kirsten Sheridan demonstrated how to portrait teenage angst in a creative, truly original, visually fascinating and intellectually challenging way. Dollhouse is none of these things.
Was bleibt (Competition / Germany / Director: Hans-Christian Schmid)
A family reunion. The father has sold his publishing company and the mother who has been fighting depression for 30 years also has an announcement to make. Both sons have grown into – more or less – responsible adults with seemingly successful private and professional lives. Already on the first evening cracks appear and all falls apart when the mother suddenly disappears. At the end, months have passed and everyone tries to pretend that all is normal. But normal it cannot be because it never was. Hans-Christian Schmid refuses to play the Hollywood keyboard of dysfunctional family life. There is no big drama, no shouting matches, no dramatic showdowns. Outbursts are short, mostly everyone tries and keep up the show. Everything is smooth, polished, faultless on the surface – the family image just like the cool, quiet images the film creates. It is a septic atmosphere in this house to which most of the film is confined. The mostly motionless camera gives it a lab-like atmosphere in which we’re watching something like a chemical experiment. The trick of the film is how everything that seems warm and friendly at first later becomes cold and soulless. There is no visible change, it’s just that the beautiful surface is revealed to be nothing but surface. And yet the film does not end on an entirely pessimistic note, rather on an ambiguous one. All lies are on the table and there is nothing else to do than to try and move on, accepting what needs to be accepted. Everything is broken but not everything is lost. Or maybe the show just needs to go on. Maybe.
Two Little Boys (Generation 14plus / New Zealand / Director: Robert Sarkies)
These „two little boys“ are no longer little boys but grown man, although in appearance only. Nige and Deano are best friends sind childhood and they have never stopped being children. their approach to the world and each other is highly infantile, Nige’s helplessness and failure to deal with reality as well as Deano’s jealousy and childlike tempers. Reality hits as Nige runs over and kills a Norwegian backpacker and they set out on a journey to get rid of the body. The cluelessness and clumsiness of these two big kids is told with so much black humor that it is hard not to laugh throughout the film. Robert Sarkies has created a relentlessly funny story on two people’s journey into darkness without realising what darkness is. Especially Deano sees this as a game that gives him a chance to establish their friendship after Nige has moved in with a new friend. Although these losers are anything but loveable at first side, the film allows enough room for their often miserable attempts to establish human closeness that the viewer in a way adopts these lost kids. Two Little Boys is a hilariously funny and even at times quite touching road movie carried by two wonderfully quirky characters. Throw in some beautiful scenery and this is excellent entertainment.
The Iron Lady (Out of Competition/ UK, France / Director: Phyllida Lloyd)
Films about controversial political figures seem to be a new fashion in Hollywood and beyond. After Clint Eastwood‘ film on J. Edgar Hoover, Phyllida Lloyd has now taken on Margaret Thatcher, one of the most divisive political leaders of the twentieth century. The first remarkable thing is how much Meryl Streep not only looks like Thatcher but also speaks like her. At times it’s hard to remember you’re not seeing the real thing. Fortunately, this is not the film’s only strong point. Lloyd tells the story from its end: The old Thatcher reminisces about her life, her rise to power and fall from it. Although her husband Denis died some years previously she still sees and talks to him. Their „conversations“ are the backbone of this film as their relationship is interpreted as the foundation of her life. It is in the private life The Iron Lady searches for the answer to how Margaret Thatcher became the first female head of government in the UK. Her admiration for her father, a shopkeeper and local politician, her un-Tory-like upbringing as a grocer’s daughter, her love for the down-to-earth and clownesque Denis are accentuated while her negative sides, her ambition, her greed for power, her need for dominance, the way she treated even close allies and especially her policies are not absent but relegated to the second row. It is a sympathetic portrait of a politician whose drive and relentlessness are derived from the conviction to do the right thing. One need not agree with this portrait of a human being with flaws as well as strong beliefs to acknowledge that the story is plausibly and consistently told. this is a solid biopic with no experiments but a fantastic twosome of Meryl Streep and Jim Broadbent who are allowed to carry the film. They say that a man has to do what a man has to do. In the case of this „Iron Lady“ it goes for women, too.