By Sascha Krieger
Nackte Tiere (Encounters / Germany / Director: Melanie Waelde)
When Benni and Katja finally embrace, after many fights, misunderstandings, accusation, we hear, faintly at first, then more pronounced, a heartbeat. Hers, his, theirs? We don’t know. But the entire film lies in this brief moment. The two are part of a group of teenagers in their final yer of school who form the core of Nackte Tiere, all of them with – mostly unexplained – parent issues, drifting, struggling through life on their own. Katja is a fighter, aggressive, unforgiving, a loner not easily compatible with others. Her on-off boyfriend Sascha is similar which is why they fit so well – and so badly. Schöller is the only one with what seems to be a more or less working family life, one who seeks warmth and closeness wherever it can be found. Laila, his girlfriend, has an abusive mother, and is still protective of her, while Benni is the one they all try to take care of, a lost soul sometimes wandering off on his own, one to be rescued but just might not want to be. The camera is close, moving with them, in an almost documentary-like naturalist fashion, it intrudes, doesn’t let go, stays too close for comfort as they fight, stick together, fall apart, go away on their own but always return to each other – until one of them doesn’t. The film does anything but romanticise friendship as it shows selfishness and the need for one another being constantly at war. And balancing each other out eventually as the desire to be independent and the care for the other remain both strong. Especially as grown-ups are hostile, ineffectual or simply absent. So they cling to each other because they’re all they have. Mentally, emotionally, physically. This fight to stay human, empathetic, committed can be found in every fibre of this energetic, often funny, at other times harrowing and always moving feverishly alive film.