Dir: Angelina Maccarone.Ger. 2006. 83mins.

The fascination of German cinema with encountersbetween middle-aged adults and teens, aired twice this year at Cannes (see Summer Of 04 and pingpong) takes a new and unexpectedturn in Angelina Maccarone's new feature Hounded.

Here the focus is not on innocentgames of sex initiation but the sado-masochisticaffair between a fiftyish social worker (Maren Kroymann) and an under-ageboy (Kostja Ullmann) underher care whose passive-aggressive attitude drags her into an intenserelationship.

Shot soberly in black-and-whitewith a degree of restraint that belies its scandalous topic and helped by unaffectedperformances, Hounded should do wellin festivals. But it will need to work hard to reach its target commercial demographic:conservative audiences may be deterred by its risky theme while more liberalcrowds may be put off by its austere approach. At Locarnothe film competed in the Filmmakers Of ThePresent section.

Elsa (Kroymann)seems to live an apparently content life with her cheerful husband (Vollenklee) until she is charged with the rehabilitation ofa juvenile delinquent, Jan (Ullmann). But the poutingteen, not yet 17, likes to be chastised and is determined from the very firstmoment that he should have Elsa as "his dominatrix'. Unashamedly floutinghis big, sad eyes and sensual lips to full advantage, he offers himself to bepunished, stalking Elsa and awaking in her strange emotions she would rathernot admit to.

At first she rejects hisadvances and tries to get someone else to take the case but to no avail.Eventually she gives in - and does so with vengeance, initiating meetings andfollowing him around in restless and nervous fashion, demanding his exclusiveattention despite the threat to her existence professionally and socially.

Working from Susanne Billig's economic script and shunning all frills andthrills, Maccarone's precise direction takes care ofevery little detail. Throughout she conveys a real, fierce and tormentingpassion which burns up both the narrative's lead protagonists, despite theirdifferences in age, social status and culture.

No attempt is made to narrowthe gap between the pair: Maren Kroymann'sage is underlined in every close-up by how she acts and dresses, while Kostja Ullmann is never more thanan adolescent, immature and solitary, who is in need more of a strong motherfigure than a lover.

To Maccarone'scredit she steers clear of any cheap psychological analysis, telling the facts withoutinterference through photography and editing and allowing the audience to draw itsown conclusions.

But Maccarone'sstrongest asset are her two actors. Kroymann's unadorned performance, in which her naked facereflects a wide run of emotions through a minimum of means, is remarkably complementedby Ullmann. A natural for the part, he allows hiseloquent physiognomy to replace words in most of the scenes he plays: as such Hounded's presentationof sado-masochism, so often used to generate repulsionor derision in films, takes on a different, painful and tormenting dimension.

Bernd Meiners'camera revives faith in black-and-hite photography,enhanced through the accuracy of its framing, while efficient cutting neverlets the story flag.

Production company
MMM Film GmbH

International sales
Media Luna

Ulrike Zimmermann

Susanne Billig

Bernd Meiners

Bettina Bohler

Production design
Bernard Homann

Main cast
Maren Kroymann
Kostja Ullmann
Markus Vollenklee
Moritz Grove
Ada Labahn
Stephanie Charlotta Koetz