Berlinale 2021: Reviews Part 6

By Sascha Krieger

Nous (Encounters / France / Director: Alice Diop)

In Nous, Alice Diop moves along the RER B regional train route through Paris and drops in on the lives of people outside the public eye. There is the elderly caregiver, Diop’s sister whose clients provide glances into the struggles of old people no longer useful to society but also a richness in memories and generosity, society neds to make more use of. Diop films a Senegalese man repaiting cars, children sliding down a hill, groups of vong PoC chilling, interviews a writer reading from diaries. Juxtaposed in a church service celebrating the king executed in the French Revolution and a hunting party that seems to come from a different time. What starts almost like a naturalistic social study that is not immediately discernible as non-fiction turns into a calm, quietly observed mosaic of lives on the outside. Inserting footage of her dead father and an old Super 8 video with her long gone mather appearing, Diop includes her own history in what appears to be a warm, generous, patient picture of a society that only seems to exist on its fringes. What connect the monarchists and the immigrants wasting their lives away forgotten, what except the train running though all these lives? Alice Diop has no answer except her film in which all of this is connected through the power of the truthful camera eye. It tells its own story, benevolent, fragmented, honest, hopeful.

Nous (Image: © Sarah Blum)

Das Mädchen und die Spinne (Encounters / Switzerland / Directors: Ramon Zürcher, Silvan Zürcher)

When she was a child, there was a spider in Mara’s room. One day, it was gone and only the web remains until that disapeared, too. The spider is this film is Lisa, Mara’s roommate who is moving out. The web is made of looks, faces, people and their positions towards each other, the dance of fore- and background, musical and visual leitmotives of leaving, destruction, breaking up the known. And intricate ballet of fleeting relationships ensues, of desiring and fearful glances, musings, resentments. Everyone is revolving in the own owrbits who meets occasionally but then go their separate ways. The film is a magic, artificial, formally strict composition in still, frames, pale interiors, encapsulation moments that always stop short of getting somewhere. The tension rises and little to nothing is spoken out, everything lies in the magnetic fields between those faces which hardly become bodies. The web will disappear, it will remain only as a memory, an imagination, it will become ome of Mara’s many stories, many lies. The Zürcher brothers point a microscope at the fine labyrinth of humant relations, they dissect them until only images remain, motions, routines, mechanics. Yet the beating heart behind all this is within grasps, in those eyes, those looks of infinite longing and sadnet. A magic abstract dance in a bright summer loght that always seems like it’s fading.

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