"Undine" is a German theatrical movie from 2020, so a pretty new film still. The director is Christian Petzold, who is certainly one of Germany's most successful filmmakers these days and has been for a while. He turns 60 next month and looking at his profile page, I just realized that he looks a bit like Tony Shalhoub. Maybe just me. Anyway, as always with his works he is also the writer and his movie here runs for exactly 1.5 hours, which is not too long, but also not uncommon at all for Petzold. He is not a filmmaker known for super long movies. On the contrary, some of his works barely make it past the 80-minute mark, even if this one here is also not one of his longes though if we are looking at the other end of the scale. Somewhere in the middle. The film is named after its protagonist and if we take "Barbara" and "Yella" for example, then this is also very common for Petzold. In those two movies, Nina Hoss was his muse if you want to call her that. Now it is Paula Beer and the key difference is that she is much younger and also the hair color obviously. Here it is red, but she usually wears darker hair I think while Hoss has always been a blonde of course. So yeah, Paula Beer, who really has been riding on a wave of success lately, is the lead here and her male co-lead is Franz Rogowski. Actually, these two have worked with Petzold before in his previous movie, so he is definitely a filmmaker who likes to cast the same actors on several occasions. Probably not to a Fassbinder level, who had a circle of actors that he always picked from, but still. Matschenz and Ratte-Polle are also familiar faces maybe to my fellow German film buffs here I am sure. And even if their roles are small and supporting and the film is never really about anybody other than Undine and Christoph, it is also a worthy addition to everybody's body of work to be in a Petzold film. Oh yeah, Enno Trebs I have to mention. His role is really minimal, but maybe how he is worked up as a waiter and tells the woman and Matschenz' character to leave immediately was the funniest moment of the film. I am only really mentioning him because he was also in "Das weiße Band", an Oscar nominated movie by Haneke from a decade ago and there he was still a boy and now he is a grown-up actor. Found it interesting somehow. Of course, one major inclusion and reference here is mythology, maybe the major component. It is no coincidence that the central character is called Undine. As a consequence, you will constantly see references to water in this movie, some really obvious, others mostly subtle. The obvious ones are the male protagonist's profession for example or also the surprisingly violent scene in the swimming pool at the end. The more subtle ideas I will not include here, you can check these out for yourself. There is probably also a lot I did not recognize immediately. You can never be really sure if Undine in this movie is a normal human or really an ancient creature. She seems to struggle with issues like everybody else, having to prepare speech on short notice, being sad after a lost love etc. but at the same time, she talks in an apparently serious manner about how her ex-boyfriend has to die because that is the tale, at the same time she wanders into the water and is apparently never seen again, at the same time she comes up from the water out of a situation that easily could have been deadly for her and is completely unharmed, actually asks for more liplock from her boyfriend. Unfortunately I must say I only know very vaguely about the mythological character of Undine and I felt that if you knew more about her, then maybe it is easier to enoy the movie. But it is still a success nonetheless. I was genuinely curious what would happen next when seeing this little movie and Petzold has a style and narration with which he always manages to keep the viewers interested. He is really good I think. Will Christoph see Undine again? What happened to her. It is also not the first time that Petzold included narratives where you could never really be sure what is real and what isn't. I will not tell you the names of the other films in which he did so becaue I don't want to give any spoilers about films other than this movie, but I surely recommend that you check out his other works. Most of those have higher ratings here on imdb than this one and I sort of would agree. Maybe they are slightly superior. However, they do not have the stunning Paula Beer in them. She really transformed into a beautiful swan over the years and the reward is that she can appear in films like this one we have here. They could not have cast a homely actress for the part. Also pay attention to how Christoph's character's colleague asks her if she wants to take the ride to the hospital with him. Was he hitting on her knowing her boyfriend is pretty much gone? Up to you to decide. I must say though that after being declared braindead his recovery out of nowhere is a mystery to me. Was it real? Chances are so low how he is so well so quickly again. I am not sure. But I must say the final part, even with interesting references like the red wine on the wall, did not do too much for me. It felt like an unnecessary epilogue. The movie could have ended very well with Undine walking into the water and Christophe being (as good as) dead. So death really strikes for all the men she runs into. Anyway, the epilogue is also not horrible or anything, but it was maybe a bit too much and there is the reference to the title of my review. I also kinda doubt it will be easier to understand (for me) on a rewatch, but you only fully get it if you read Petzold's script I suppose. Who was the woman he finally saw in the water? And before that, was Undine really down there holding his hand, even if she is not on tape. Nice preparation ith the big catfish though early on. Again, up too you to decide. There is no one solution here, no one clean explanation, but it is all lefta bit up to interpretation and that I like though. Also up to interpretation is if the awards recognition for this film, especially Paula Beer at the Berlinale, is justified. I do like her, but even I must say that it was maybe a bit too much. So i agree with the other reviewer there. However, there is not the slightest bit of doubt for me here in giving this film a thumbs-up and positive recommendation. Moments of greatness are also rare, but it is a good and exciting watch from beginning to end. I suggest you go check it out, it will probably also be shown abroad and available with subtitles (or dub) anyway. Go for it. You most likely won't regret it, even if I would say that it may not be the best choice to start with when digging into Petzold's body of work. There are films more representative of his style. And better. But this is just because those are that good and definitely not because this one here is weak or anything. See it, especially if you like the Bee Gees. But also if you don't because if we are talking the music perspective here, the score is always good in Petzold's films and here I felt it was especially good! Shame the composer is not (yet) credited here on imdb.
Drama / Fantasy / Romance
Drama / Fantasy / Romance
Undine works as a historian lecturing on Berlin's urban development. But when the man she loves leaves her, the ancient myth catches up with her. Undine has to kill the man who betrays her and return to the water.
December 13, 2020