Dir: Andreas Dresen.Germany 2005. 112mins.
Indie director AndreasDresen is the German counterpart of Robert Guediguian: a regional maverickwithin a national system, whose drama-tinged comedies, or comedy-tinged dramas,are all set in the milieu he knows best. Dresen's preferred location is theformer East Germany, his preferred subject those who are struggling in thedepressed part of this land of opportunity to make ends meet.
SummerIn Berlinis Dresen's most overtly comic take on this material to date, and may end upbeing one of the most commercially viable. Buoyed up by Wolfgang Kohlhaase'speppy script, the story of a friendship between two single women trying to copewith jobs, men and alcohol has a lightness of touch that allows it to embraceboth comic caricature and social drama without jarring.
Butthe film has neither the catchy theme nor the big Hollywood story arc of Goodbye,Lenin, the only recent German comedy to have had any real internationalsuccess. Away from home, it should notch up a few scattershot sales fromdistributors willing to take a risk on this small but enjoyable film's feelgoodfactor.
Perfectlycast, actresses Inka Friedrich and Nadja Uhl play Katrina and Nike (Nicole),two fun-loving girlfriends who live in the same apartment block in East Berlinand still act like they're in their early twenties, though forty is fastapproaching (in a series of interviews for jobs she never manages to get,Katrina always gives her age as "thirty-nine and a half").
Themore together of the two, pretty Nike works as a carer for old people, changingincontinence nappies and dealing with senile vague-outs with patience andefficiency, her blonde pony tail and thong knickers acting as amulets againstthese daily dose of mortality and decrepitude.
Katrinais a heavy drinker, and her son of 11 or 12 is left to fend for himself formuch of the time; but despite of this she is a sympathetic character, moreimmature than downright irresponsible.
Thegirlfriends' relationship - which never goes beyond a chaste kiss, belying thegirl-on-girl-action promise of the San Sebastian poster - is jeopardised whenNike takes up with Ronald, a self-regarding, pigeon-chested truck driver with awoman in every port, who is the film's most obviously comic character.
Adrunken binge that ends in an attempted rape forces Katrina to confess to heralcohol problem and seek help.
Fromhere on in, the story ricochets towards its rather inconclusive ending: butDresen and Kohlhaase were always more interested in sketching in their twolikeable co-protagonists than in rounding off their stories.
Goodon female friendships, the film is also wryly perceptive about the lowering ofstandards that starts to kick in when the search for the perfect guy hasdragged on for too long. It's also got a flair for comic repetition: as in arunning gag where Katrina is forced to stand on tiptoe to fix her lipstick inthe ladies' room of the local bar.
Technicalsmoothness has never been Dresen's forte, and the 35mm photography is ratherdark throughout, with a rough and makeshift feel to it. But at least it's astep up from the fuzzy digital camerawork of Dresen's 2002 Berlin Silver Bearwinner Grill Point, which marred the distribution prospects of adramatically well-constructed film.
Locationsand production design stress the tatty side of life in the Eastern suburbs ofGermany's only superficially unified capital. This is a place where kids'tricycles are chained up in communal courtyards to prevent them being stolen;and our sole glimpse of tourist Berlin is a distant view of the Fernsehturm,the city's iconic TV tower, from Katrina and Nike's condo rooftop.
Peter Rommel Productions
Peter Rommel Productions/X Filme Creative Pool