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Undine review – a shaggy catfish of a story about a woman with a water obsession | Berlin film festival 2020

Christian Petzold’s Undine is an intriguing, bemusing oddity of a film: a suspense drama-thriller with a fey supernatural twist. It’s a sphinx that, if not precisely with out a secret, has much less of a secret than it thinks it has. And it’s attainable to come back away from the film lower than satisfied, however very impressed by the sheer drive of Petzold’s film-making expertise (just lately so gorgeous in his drama Transit) however which has been right here deployed for one thing which is a bit flimsy and foolish.

Paula Beer performs Undine who, as her identify suggests, could have intense sympathies with water. She lives in Berlin, and is a fashionable and stylish historian who lectures on the town’s architectural historical past on the Berlin Metropolis Fashions exhibition. However she can be conducting an sad adulterous affair with Johannes (Jacob Matschenz), which is reaching its sad finish on the film’s opening – revealing a flash of one thing indignant and even violent in Undine.

However within the midst of this traumatic episode, Undine is to have a fateful encounter with a unusual man who has heard her lecture, and seems to be in love with her. That is Christoph, an underwater diver performed by Franz Rogowski – a sensual display presence with a little of Joaquin Phoenix. Quickly Undine and Christoph are having a passionate affair, and he introduces her to his mysterious skilled world, little guessing that she could also be much more at residence in it than he ever might be.

Their relationship is passionately sensual, although Undine is perplexed on the sheer rapture with which Christoph listens to her lectures about Berlin’s planning historical past. Is there a metaphorical dimension to this? Possibly. Definitely their emotional connection has restored one thing like happiness to her, and effaced the mad livid unhappiness of her former liaison. However then she is to likelihood throughout Johannes as soon as once more and a horrible future begins to stir in these watery depths with which Undine feels such empathy.

Franz Rogowski in Undine.
Franz Rogowski in Undine. {Photograph}: Schramm Film

In reality, Undine is a bit of a shaggy canine story, or possibly a slimy large catfish story; although it’s simply so skilfully made, fantastically acted and directed. Rogowski brings one thing unstable and harmful to the half and so, in a extra contained method, does Beer. What may this solid and this director do in the event that they have been engaged on a extra compelling and substantial story? Because it stands, Undine is a diverting and handsomely crafted piece of fantasy.

Launched on 2 April on Curzon Residence Cinema

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