By Sascha Krieger
In den Gängen (Competition / Germany / Director: Thomas Stuber)
What an opening: Still lie the aisles in this superstore somewhere in the eastern parts of Germany. A peaceful twilight lies in the air. The sweet sounds of Johann Strauss‘ famous waltz „An der schönen blauen Donau“ (of 2001 – A Space Odyssee fame) fill the room while forklifts glide elegantly through the aisles. Director Thomas Stuber explores the poetry and prose of a modern supermarket – a world in its own, self-sufficient, a miniature edition of the larger, scarier one outside, which is why In den Gängen hardly ever leaves it. Franz Rogowski plays his second leading role in this year’s competition, a quiet, soft man with a floating voice that doesn’t really seem present. It’s the story of his arrival, shedding a past discovered only late when he has already found his place. Complemented by the sad cheekiness of Sandra Hüller and the dry melancholia of Peter Kurth, two of Christian’s co-worker, chief among a group of characters finely moulded no matter how small they are and excellently played by a stellar cast. The loving glance Christian directs at the forklift long before he’s allowed to operate it, is longing and a promise. A new life in the beauty of faithful efficiency. The sunless world has its own soft glow in Stuber’s film, brightening just a little as it moves on. As this is life, there is love and death, too, and a few clichés which can be forgiven. At the end, as we’ve roamed through the aisles and observed their grid from above, the camera fleetingly moving from distance to closeness and finding its space in-between, where both meet, everything is open, the rough poetry of this safe space, pale, a little run-down, but a refuge of its own, has exhibited a glimpse of magic. Which brings this year’s Berlinale Competition to a strong and moving end.