Dir: Timm Kroeger. Germany. 2014. 80mins
An elegantly composed drama that is rich on atmosphere and mood but eventually rather lacking the story and tension to match the moodiness that it manages to sustain, The Council Of Birds (Zerrumpelt Herz), the debut film of German filmmaker Timm Kroeger, is a striking calling card of a film that premiered to good effect in Venice Critics Week.
At times beautiful to look at, certainly made with real technical panache and blessed with more than a few memorable cinematic moments.
A graduation film from Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, the film is beautifully presented and structured, though the lack of refined actors does niggle after a while. But there is much to be admired here, with the film likely to also feature at other film festivals post its Venice premiere.
The film is largely set in Germany in 1920, when three old friends, Paul and Anna Leinert (Thorsten Wien and Eva Maria Jost) and Willi (Daniel Krauss) head into the deep, dark, woods to the cabin of a composer friend Otto Schiffmann (Christian Bluemel), except that he isn’t there waiting for him as they expect. They wait for Otto, eating what they can, and the next day head off to look for him.
Their stroll through the heavy woods is beautifully shot and scored – with the ‘birds’ of the title adding to the musical accompaniment – and when they get back to the cottage they find him waiting for them, though doesn’t talk about where he has been…let alone talk at all. The still quietness and gentle atmosphere of unease take a pleasingly strange turn when he finally does wake up, acting as a smart contrast to the unnerving innocuousness of the first (in fact majority) of the film.
Quite whether a non-forgiving art house audience will have the stoical dedication to see things through until the climax of film remains to be seen. Little is fully explained while much is implied, with the audience having to work hard to interpret what has been happening. At times beautiful to look at, certainly made with real technical panache and blessed with more than a few memorable cinematic moments.
Production company/contact: Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, www.filmakademie.de
Producer: Viktoria Stolpe
Screenplay: Roderick Warich, Timm Kroeger
Cinematography: Roland Stuprich
Editor: Jann Anderegg
Production designer: Cosima Vellenzer
Music: John Guertler
Main cast: Thorsten Wien, Eva Maria Jost, Daniel Krauss, Christian Bluemel, Andreas Conrad, Theo Leutert