Dir: Katharina Muckstein. Austria. 2013. 75mins
This rather predictable modest mother-daughter film should rate as a promising, but not entirely successful, debut, sustained by two talented performers in need of a more confident director and a stronger script.
Visually there is nothing but praise for the careful choice of camera angles and for the meticulous framing.
Except for a relatively brief introduction and the very last sequence, the entire plot consists of a two days summer hike in the countryside, the idyllic landscape providing the ideal choice for a backdrop this story could hope for. The film premiered at the Sarajevo Film Festival.
Fourteen year-old Jasmin (Sophie Stockinger) is the rather plain, childish, surly, introverted daughter of Eva (Nina Proll), a blonde, grim, trough-looking woman, just released on parole after spending time in jail. During her mother’s absence, Jasmin had been placed with middle-class foster parents and has shared a room with their blonde daughter, who may have same age but looks more mature in every respect.
Sitting by the pool, in the opening sequence, dressed in her jeans and t-shirt, she is lead to feel like an ugly duckling in a pond of beauties who are displaying their youthful curves in bathing suits, as they swim graciously under her eyes. After a brief and unpleasant altercation at home, which makes her feel more rejected than usual, she runs away (once again, as it is implied in the script) to her mother, who works in a greenhouse.
The two of them are practically strangers. Eva hardly knows how to cope with her daughter’s presence and tries to avoid it, but Jasmin insists, and finally they leave together for a weekend to find the remote, abandoned house of Eva’s grandparents, hidden somewhere in the forest.
Naturally, as they spend more time together, the daughter’s urgent need of affection gradually melts down Eva’s diffidence, the girl opens up and embraces the mother who readily responds after a while, the two grow closer together, they rent a room in a country inn with the money Jasmin has stolen, unbeknownst by her mother, from her foster parents, they walk in the forest, lie down in the sun and they discover the pleasure of being together, but only up to a certain point.
For Eva has been yearning for the company of a man, and the innkeeper (Philip Hochmair) is too tempting to miss. Jasmin refuses to share the new-found mom with anyone and soon enough, it turns out that each one of them had expected something different from this improvised adventure.
As long as there is only Stockinger and Proll on the screen - and Michael Schindegger’s camera records their every expression closely - Katharina Muckstein’s direction works wonders, drawing from both her actresses subtly natural, intelligent and moving reactions. But it is enough for one more person to step into the frame for these admirable qualities to be lost, as if the intimacy established between Stockinger, Proll and the camera does not bear any additional presence. Neither the script nor the direction overcome this obstacle, nor do they manage to wrap up the plot in a satisfactory manner.
Visually, however, there is nothing but praise for the careful choice of camera angles and for the meticulous framing. The pace is judicious, and just in case anyone wonders what the title is supposed to mean, ‘talea’ is a sprig intended to take roots in alien ground. Just like Jasmin.
Production company: La Banda Film
Producer/contact: Flavio Marchetti, firstname.lastname@example.org
Screenplay: Selina Gnos, Katharina Muckstein
Cinematography: Michael Schindegger
Editor: Natalie Schwager
Production designer: Katharina Haring, Mira Konig, Simon Sramek
Main cast: Sophie Stockinger, Nina Proll, Philipp Hochmair, Rita Waszilovics, Eva-Maria Ginsberg