Dir: Christian Petzold. Germany. 2008. 93mins.
James M Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twicegets a German make-over in Christian Petzold’s precisely shot Jerichow. Lust and passion are still motivating forces but ultimately take a back seat to money in this tale of adultery set in a small townwest ofBerlin. German stars F and Hoss will bring in the home crowds but internationally it may struggle to find a niche.
Turkish immigrant Ali (Sozer) is the wealthy owner of some 45 snack bars in and around the town of Jerichow which he monitors closely convinced that everyone is out to cheat him. When he loses his licence for a drunk-driving incident, Ali hires Thomas (F) as his driver and then general assistant. Recently discharged from the army, Thomas is happy to take the job given the acute unemployment in the region. But the strained relations between Ali and wife Laura (Hoss) on the one hand, and Thomas’ loneliness on the other as well as the pair’s obvious mutual attraction soon leads to an affair.
Petzold’s film succeeds most as a character study. Thomas, dishonourably discharged from military service, may not be particularly bright but he is the classical strong, silent type. Ali knows that despite having lived most of his life in Germany he is still an alien who is hated, mistrusted and living with a wife his money has bought and whom he at once cajoles and browbeats into submission. Emotionally bruised Laura, who has served time, lives with a man she dislikes. All three are desperate for financial security.
The film’s main problem is that its protagonists too often act out of character just to move the narrative forward. Why does Ali push his wife into Thomas’ arms when he is such a jealous man’ Is it just to taunt or test them’ Why does he trust his entire business to a man he barely knows’ How is it possible such a suspicious man doesn’t see things coming’
Luckily F, Hoss and Sozer give pitch-perfect performances. Sozer, in particular, gives his shrewd and course character a touch of poignancy.
Koerner & Weber
The Match Factory
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Florian Kr von Gustorf