Montag, 24. März 2014

Die Frau des Polizisten (The Police Officer's Wife)

"Die Frau des Polizisten (The Police Officer's Wife)", a 3-hour domestic drama set in rural Germany, is quite the strange beast. Divided into 59 chapters, each bracketed by two separate title cards announcing its start AND end (not even kidding), it's, contradictorily, both formal minimalism / overkill. The merit of this approach will possibly forever be dabated. To some the endless opening and closing of scenes will no doubt come across as insufferably pretentious, not to mention repetitive, but the intention to suffocate by employing a purposefully punishing framing device can equally be argued.

Substance-wise, the film is not any less experimental. The theme of marital violence is addressed in an unusually elusive way, embedded within a torrent of seemingly unrelated sidenotes or impressions, like those chapters with only seconds of footage showing random wildlife activity or the protagonists singing into the camera. Add to that a deliberate scrambling of chronology, which gives the already bewildering material even more of a dream-like quality, and it's very likely the viewer won't get any closer to understanding the dynamics of this family of three or the motivations behind the abuse when the tragedy is done.

For all its daring and striking oddness, I don't think writer/director Philip Gröning is quite yet the master of chaos à la Tsai Ming Liang, evidenced by the lack of a gravitational pull, a logic-defying suction from the combined senselessness. Besides the consistently impressive cinematography, which in some cases affords the film an eerie fantasticism and a Lars von Trier / Terrence Malick virtuosity (ex. the bathing scene), the elements don't always come together to really stick or even to intrigue. And so it's probably recommendable only to die-hard cineasts who like their movies all obscure and compulsively different, with no music nor high dialogue concentration, of course.

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