A House In Berlin


Reviewed by: Robert Munro

A House In Berlin
"There’s really no excuse for producing such a visually insipid film."

Cynthia Beatt’s rather flat docudrama A House in Berlin tells the story of Stella, a Glasgow woman who finds out that she has inherited the aforementioned house in Berlin. The film aims to blend a true story, which would probably have made an interesting feature in a Sunday newspaper supplement, with fiction in a style that never works properly and feels stilted and amateur throughout.

There’s nothing cinematic whatsoever about the film, which is a real shame as there’s potentially good material here. Added to the intriguing story of homes being repatriated to dispossessed Jews after the reunification of Germany, there’s thematic connections drawn to dispossessed people all over the globe. To that end the film focuses on Stella’s awakening interest in the dispossessed peoples of Palestine, which she at first dismisses as having no relevance to her current situation, even though the relevance is blindingly obvious.

Copy picture

And here lies one of the film’s biggest problems. Its lack of subtlety and heavy handed treatment of the material feels rather insulting to the audience, and the ‘fictional’ elements of the film - Stella fights a variety of battles with German lawyers and banks - are really nothing more than a poorly handled distraction. A voice over narration flits in and out of the film, guilty of cloyingly overwrought sentimentalism: “Robert and Stella didn’t see as much of each other now as when they were single and free. Now he’s married with kids. The usual story”.

While its likely it was made on a shoestring budget, there’s really no excuse for producing such a visually insipid film. Digital recording equipment is relatively affordable for guerrilla filmmaking, but the filmmaker's inability to use it properly and decision to cast unprofessional actors throughout results in a film which feels like a student production, and not a good one.

Reviewed on: 19 Jun 2014
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After a woman inherits an old house in Berlin, she starts to piece together its history.

Director: Cynthia Beatt

Writer: Charlie Gormley

Starring: Susan Vidler, Isi Metzstein, Clemens Schick, Peter Knaack, Maria Heiden, Doris Egbring-Kahn, Achim Buch

Year: 2014

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: Germany, UK


EIFF 2014

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