Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Andreas is a metal worker and volunteer firefighter who enjoys a comfortable life in a quiet village with a young son and a wife who is still passionately in love with him. One day he witnesses a car crash and hurries to help those involved. His initial distress at their suffering is compounded when he later learns that they had intended to kill themselves in a suicide pact.

Opening with this heavy emotional blow, Longing goes on to explore the effect of Andreas' experience on his seemingly perfect life. Though he clearly still has strong feelings for his wife, he seems increasingly disconnected from her. A series of slow, awkward sex scenes illustrate her passion and his distance. Before long he has found himself a lover in a distant town. Drifting through life without any inclination to take responsibility, he lets the affair develop until he is in love with both women and feels hopelessly torn between the two situations. By the time he is finally ready to make a decision, it can only lead to disaster.

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Longing is an interesting film in that it doesn't concern itself so much with the morality of its protagonist's actions as with their practical consequences. In doing so, it provides a far more effective demonstration of the destructiveness of those actions. Yet it is exactly that destructiveness which seems to ensnare Andreas. As other people discuss death in both professional and personal contexts, it becomes clear that his own feelings about it have shifted in some subtle way which makes it difficult for him to recognise the humanity of those around him. Even the secrecy he maintains about his affair seems as much incidental as a product of reason. Playing a character like this is always a challenge, yet Müller mostly manages to make Andreas' plight sympathetic and compelling. Unfortunately the pacing of the film isn't quite as strong and, when it drags, it's all too easy for the audience to sit back and reassess the situation to his detriment.

Longing is a film full of silences and sideways glances, film which relies as much on what is left unstated as on the story it tells directly. This is particularly true of the final scene, in which a group of children discuss the story which has become a local legend. It creates the feeling that what we are getting is an insight into something which really happened, snatches of gossip rather than a polished narrative. This is at once intriguing and frustrating. Ultimately, the story is fairly predictable, and it doesn't develop its underlying themes effectively enough to make up for this. It's an impressive effort from Grisebach, being only her second film, but one hopes she'll go on to greater things in the future.

Reviewed on: 17 May 2007
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A volunteer firefighter who witnesses the aftermath of a car crash finds his life turned upside down by an obscure, destructive longing.
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Director: Valeska Grisebach

Writer: Valeska Grisebach

Starring: Andreas Müller, Ilka Welz, Anett Dornbusch

Year: 2006

Runtime: 88 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Germany


CFF 2007
London 2006

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