Directors’ Showcase / UK premiere

Jerichow

  • Christian Petzold /
  • Germany /
  • 2008 /
  • 93 mins

Benno Fürmann, Nina Hoss, Hilmi Sözer

EIFF regular Christian Petzold presents a cool, disturbing psychological thriller.

Christian Petzold's lean, elegant dramas ponder human isolation, fractured relationships and the dire consequences of impulsive emotional action. Yella (EIFF 2007) referenced Herk Hervey's Carnival of Souls (1962), by introducing a symbolically-charged alternate reality in the wake of a car accident. Jerichow extends Petzold's interest in the loose, imaginative remake, drawing for its inspiration upon James M Cain's classic, twice-filmed 1934 noir novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice. Jobless ex-soldier Thomas (Benno Fu?rmann) returns from Afghanistan just in time to bury his mother and take on her considerable debts. Work is scarce in depressed rural West Germany, but by chance Thomas finds casual work driving and delivering for prosperous snack bar owner Ali (Hilmi Sözer), after the latter loses his driving license. None too welcoming at first is Ali's goodlooking young wife, Laura (played by Yella star Nina Hoss) – but hers is the sort of hostility that carries a heavy charge of erotic interest. Sure enough, Thomas and Laura soon succumb to an affair, and Thomas resolves to save her from her unsatisfactory marriage. But is Laura really the fragile damsel in distress he chooses to see? And what is the true nature of the hold that her husband seems to have over her? A master of tense plotting and veiled character intentions, Petzold allows our genre-based assumptions to guide us through the first two thirds of the film, before whipping the rug from under us during the last third. The crisp, immaculately composed visuals underline the sinister sense of predestination, as if the most random incidents have been choreographed according to a ruthless plan. Fu?rmann, Hoss and Sözer, meanwhile, bring freshness to very noir character archetypes: the illicit couple who recognise how much trouble they've made for themselves just as their initial reckless passion starts to dim, and the cuckold who might not be quite the patsy that he seems. In Petzold's world, the clouds gather inexorably, but the storm of outright melodrama holds off: dark deeds and emotional betrayals are fostered quietly, secretively, in covert glances and ambiguous gestures. His plots may reference classic Hollywood, but his execution is sharply, coolly modern, which renders his work all the more mysterious and affecting.

2009 Archive

Image from Jerichow

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  • #1 Paul Laird / Sunday 21 June, 2009 / 18:47 GMT

    Hmmmm.

    A very loose adaptation of "Postman" I would wager...loose enough to incorporate a rather unpleasant undercurrent in the shape of some racism.

    I'm being deliberately controversial here but I cannot have been alone in finding something unsavoury in the notion of a central character in a German thriller being a short, fat, ugly, Turk who can only find "love" by paying off the debts of a tall, beautiful, slim, blonde haired German woman and then holding this over her as he beats her.

    Was it just me?

    Aside from that there was nothing new here.

    A very old story being told without anything new being brought to the tale.

    I'm not sure I've ever seen a film that uses a shot of someone sweeping out the back of a delivery van twice...I'm not sure I ever will again. The blurb here paints this as a cool, disturbing, psychological thriller but it wasn't any of those things. The only disturbing thing about it was the ending...and not in a good way, it was disturbingly cliched.


    Petzold is a director with a reputation but my guess is that if this were an English language offering and coming out of the U.S that the programmers wouldn't have given it screen time.
  • #2 Stuart Fraser / Sunday 21 June, 2009 / 20:03 GMT

    My wife and I couldn't agree with Paul's comment more. We found the film to be, not just a loose adaptation of "Postman", but a somewhat poor adaptation to boot.

    The only significant change, as Paul pointed out, was the potentially racist portrayal of one of the central characters. If the above description proved to be inadequate in anyway, then there is a distinct similarity between Petzold's Ali and Shakespeare's Shylock (Merchant of Venice).

    On a positive note, the first 10-15 minutes of this film offer some promise, but the hook is soon lost. You will then spend the rest of the film waiting for a surprise or twist that will ultimately never come. Even while viewing the final scenes, you will be running an infinite series of imagined possibilities through your head, only to be disappointed by the extremely cliched ending which could, at best, be described as a dismal attempt at irony.
  • #3 Caroline Armstrong / Thursday 25 June, 2009 / 11:51 GMT

    It wasn't so much of a psychological thriller as a slow drama. Like the other comments have said, it hints at a big twist but one never comes. The drifter Thomas is rather cold and silent so I couldn't really get what he was all about. It wasn't very tense and not a lot happened.

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