29 March 2006

FILM REVIEW: Halbe Treppe

Halbe Treppe is set in the 'other' Frankfurt, at Germany's border with Poland, in half-light and gloom. The city is portrayed as an utterly unexceptional place, where people pass petty lives in routine hopelessness. There is no social deprivation or tragedy, but the two couples pursue ordinary meaningless existences as employees and consumers. Amid the resignation, the four characters mouth clichés to reassure themselves. They display no self-awareness at all. The ironies of the soubriquet “Magic Chris”, of the raw meat in the bath, of the world map on the kitchen wall, pass them by. They are the opposite of the thinking people of similar ages in, say, the 2004 film Before sunset. In Halbe Treppe, the new millennium in the new Germany has brought a life devoid of dynamics. The film bumps between fly-on-the-wall technique and scenes in which characters address the film-maker; the pace is always slow and over-extended. The escape of Uwe and Ellen’s budgie, mentioned when Ellen first has sex with Chris in the back of the car, ironises any notion of Ellen as another Nora, the 'little bird' who will fly free.
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