Directors’ Showcase / UK premiere

Yella

  • Christian Petzold /
  • Germany /
  • 2007 /
  • 89 mins

Nina Hoss, Devid Striesow, Hinnerk Schönemann, Burghart Klaußner, Barbara Auer / Fiction / German

Ice-cool, witty and mysterious drama - the best yet from EIFF regular Christian Petzold.

This welcome return for EIFF regular Christian Petzold (The State I Am In, 2001; Something to Remind Me, 2002; Gespenster, 2005) finds the German director in decidedly more abstract mood than usual.

Yella, a young woman living in a small town in rural East Germany, announces to her father she has taken a new job in Hanover. Partly to escape her seemingly psychotic estranged husband Ben, whose business has gone the same way as their marriage, and partly because she needs to spread her wings. She reluctantly agrees to let Ben drive her to the train station; but he unexpectedly and deliberately drives off a bridge into the river Elbe. Miraculously, they both survive. Catching the train still dripping wet, Yella arrives in Hanover to find her new employer has just been fired, and the job no longer exists. But Philipp, a ruthless venture capitalist living in the same hotel (and, apparently, the hotel’s only other guest) asks her for some help with a business meeting, and an alliance of sorts ensues. However, something is not quite right, and Yella is continually haunted by sights and sounds from the past that may or may not be real…

That Petzold’s frequent collaborator Nina Hoss won the Best Actress prize at Berlin this year is no great surprise. She excels as the oddly detached Yella, a soul strangely adrift from and at odds with her surroundings, whose only real connection appears to be with the father she has left behind. At the absolute centre of the film, Hoss is in practically every scene. Yella’s journey across the Elbe – a long stretch of which once formed the border between East and West Germany and the crossing of which very nearly cost her her life – may not have been an easy one physically, but may well prove to be even more problematic ideologically, for in embracing the excesses of capitalism as wholeheartedly as she does, she may well have lost her soul.

This dark metaphysical thriller – a Carnival of Souls for the 21st century – will confound and enthral in equal measure. It is not a film which surrenders its secrets easily. But it does demand – and subsequently reward – your close attention.
Rod White

2007 Archive

Image from Yella

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