Austria has always existed in the shadow of its larger, more powerful northern border neighbour country of Germany. To us ignorants their cultures/languages seems similiar, so Austria is often subsumed into Germany. That being said, this Austrian film demonstrates the unique voice filmwise it has.
It is a case of a job perfectly suiting one’s personality. Lola Wegenstein (Valerie Pachner – A Hidden Life, All My Loving) works as business consultant, a job which requires her to be detached, sometimes ruthless, astute, dedicated, and logical. This is pretty much how she is in her personal life, which barely exists as she works constantly, rarely sleeping. All she seems to do besides work is exercise.
The only exception to her all-consuming job is her sister. An older sister who lives in Austria and is not well mentally. Conny (Pia Hierzegger – Wild Mouse, Hotel Rock ‘n Roll) has been put in mental hospital after almost killing herself via drug overdose. Lola, who is in the midst of an important job at work, travels between Austria and Germany trying to make sure her sister is alright. This is tough as Conny is manipulative and delusional.
No one at work knows what is going on, not even her boss Elise (Mavie Horbiger – The Garden, Half Brothers), who she is having a secret affair with. As time goes on, being torn in two directions takes its toll on Lola and she begins to break down as well.
Though a lesbian relationship is part of this film it is not really a lesbian film. What I mean by that is that the sexual relationship between two women is not the focal point of the film; it is just a part. A rather smallish part. What the film really focuses on is family and the person we present and who we truly are. Lola, no matter how controlled she seems on the outside, is really a mess on the inside. She is self-doubting, hard on herself and fearful. Fearful that the mental illness that seems to run in her family could claim her as well. Private vs. public. We all have those two sides to us.
Mental illness, while more discussed today, still exists largely in the shadows. We keep it in the dark because we are frightened of it. Unlike physical diseases we really don’t know its causes or how to prevent it. As such, it is beyond man’s control. We are often scared of what we cannot control. That fear has resulted in plenty of cinematographic examinations of mental illness. Here director Marie Kreutzer examines the unknown. The mysterious. While giving it the look and tone of a thriller. Though it isn’t. Juxtaposing the controlled with the seemingly uncontrollable.
Plenty of depth and nuances. The subject matter requires it. Pachner understands this and plenty is placed in character. As such we feel for her Lola without her courting for it. Without much dialogue or histrionics, you cannot take your eyes off the lead acress. It is a star making performance.