By Sascha Krieger
Mein Bruder heißt Robert und ist ein Idiot (Competition / Germany, France, Switzerland / Director: Philip Gröning)
Elena and Robert are twins. Elena is about to graduate, Robert had to repeat a year. Together they spend a sun-soaked weekend around a rural petrol station learning fer Elena’s philosophy exam. Truth and time are at the centre of their conversations. Mostly Robert speaks, reading and paraphrasing from St. Augustine and Heidegger. Thinking is waiting, time is hope. The hope wanes as the film progresses. An infinite three hours later, blood floods the petrol stations floor, a body sits on the toilet and Elena has her exam. In-between? Endless talking in a melancholy drone, close-ups of body parts, water surfaces, insects, shots from above. Every now and then the footage turns grainy, like a half-preserved memory. Waiting for life to begin. Distance and closeness, action and inaction. Time is non-linear, circular, coming to a pause. Or at least, thats what it says. In reality, it does move on, slowly, unbearably so. Elena and Robert follow their rituals, live their symbiotic relationship. even a daring bet – about her getting laid before her exam – doesn’t seem to change much. They engage in banter with the station clerks and play around with a child. Not much happens though everything is supposed to change. They throw fits, reconcile. Out of nowhere an escalation. Unexplained, with not much of an effect, it seems. Philip Gröning’s film is trying to be an elegy, two people, almost one, at the edge of becoming separate entities forever. The camera ebbs and flows gently, the narrative hangs in the balance between episodic fragments and rivers of time. Time stands still, even when it hits hard. After all, the present doesn’t exist. According to Robert. But what does? Them? Julia Zange and Josef Mattes are at times captivating as this couple that tries to assert their own identities but cannot escape their collective one yet. They cannot save the film which meanders rather aimlessly for two hours before losing grip entirely in its final third. A meditation about time and growing up? No, just a collection of admittedly rather pretty pictures.