Freitag, 14. Februar 2014

Berlinale: Kreuzweg (Stations of the Cross)

German writer/director Dietrich Brüggemann's forbiddingly strict, demonstratively confrontational, relentlessly watchable film "Kreuzweg (Stations of the Cross)", about the journey of a 14-year-old girl raised under the ancient, most radical creeds of the Catholic Church, is an uncompromising work of genius.

Told in simulation of the 14 Stations of the Cross of Jesus in a total of mere 14 takes, the movie is a triumph of the Germanic minimalist film tradition. The formal restrictions prove to be way more than just stylistic stunts with symbolic value, they lock you from the very first moment on in the unforgiving rigidity of the depicted religion and put such magnified focus on the gradual change of the heroine, it makes both structurally and narratively perfect sense. The "faithful" script and the economical direction turn out to be so powerful because they never seek to portray the punishing belief system or the people who live by it in an ostensibly negative way. Instead, it's presented exactly as it is against the background of a largely impious modern world and all the resulting conflicts, absurdities, disconformities take care of themselves, reaping the maximum of dramatic, comedic, horrific potential out of the material along the way. Indeed, by recreating all the meticulous rituals as truthfully and neutrally as possible, the movie makes you appreciate both the awe-inspiring beauty of distilled discipline and the intense psychological toll it exacts. By withholding any judgment of its own, it ingeniously plays both sides and allows you to see from each the incorrigible wrongness of the other.

The cast is superb. Supporting actors like Florian Stetter as the priest ready to turn his young students into soldiers of the Holy War or Lucie Aron as the more reasonably religious French au pair trying to save a dying child, are faultless. Lea van Acken as the girl who can't wait to get to heaven shows the evolution of a militarized mind and a depleted body with tremendous believability. Perhaps even more impressive is Franziska Weisz as the fanatical mother who would stop at nothing to protect her family against demonic influences from the weak and the decadent. It's the lack of vanity and mockery she brings to this role that makes it so fascinating and unsettling at the same time.

Brilliant on just about every level, this movie demands you to take a hard, good look at the meaning of faith, sacrifice, normality through an illustration of circumstances that could be interpreted as inhumane or, just as easily, divine.

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