Blessed Events

Blessed Events


Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

Blessed Events opens with a simple, static shot of Simone (Annika Kuhl) that establishes both her character and the tone of her wonderfully uncomfortable story. We see her through the window of a dreary flat, languishing on her bed, while behind us fireworks crackle and light up the drab concrete box. It’s New Year’s Eve and eventually she rises and heads out, forced more by the noise and frustration, one suspects, than by any notions of revelry.

She wakes up the next morning in a young stranger’s car and slinks off while he’s still sleeping. It’s clear it hasn’t been a usual night out, which is compounded a few weeks later when she discovers she’s pregnant.

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She processes the revelation with a flicker of emotion in her dark, cryptic eyes and then, by coincidence, runs into the stranger again. She breaks the news to the handsome Hannes (Stefan Rudolf) and is quietly astounded that he is not only happy, but suggests they could stay together and find a place to live. She cautiously allows the relationship develop.

While the gentle Hannes works as a palliative care nurse in a hospital, Simone sets about redecorating their new home. She inauspiciously strips old wallpaper, paints over the cracks underneath and, as her unborn baby grows, so do her doubts. She starts to worry who this seemingly perfect father really is, becomes jealous of the attractive woman next door and gets increasingly anxious about just what she may have got herself into.

Director and co-writer Isabelle Stever frames Simone with a pronounced style that only ever presents events from her perspective. At times the camera is prominently placed, as is the light design, either promoting or excluding Simone and forcing a centre-stage expression of her inner feelings. On other occasions, anxious unfilled space waits for whatever nasty turn of events Simone suspects will inevitably occur. Her deepening fear and apprehensions become our sense of foreboding and mounting tension.

Simone just cannot believe the good fortune that seems to have befallen her and simply senses that it won’t last, as do we. As an audience we are versed in film story lines and expect conflict and woe; these serendipitous events cannot last. Waiting for the chop, as it were, makes for a captivating and disquieting watch, an experience which Stever herself describes as sitting through a horror film.

Blessed Events is her second feature based on the writings of Anke Stelling, after Gisela in 2005, which also starred Rudolf. Stever again treats the viewer with maturity, here only hinting at back stories, motivations and the barest amount of exposition. Her great skill is composing the piece from Simone’s point of view, straightforward enough in Stelling’s short story (Glückliche Fügung), but conceived on screen with real control and craft. She is rewarded by an excellent performance from Kuhl as Simone, necessarily present nearly all the time. Kuhl intrigues throughout, suggesting the initially dowdy Simone’s precarious emotions and absorbing uncertainty with understated depth. She hints at a tangible potential for Simone to fall into real unhappiness. The question, forever in her own mind, is would she ever merit anything else?

In a time when the media is perhaps savouring a financially and politically induced melancholia-cum-anger, this is a film to see.

Reviewed on: 14 Nov 2010
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A woman's life changes dramatically after she unexpectedly discovers that she's pregnant.
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Director: Isabelle Stever

Writer: Isabelle Stever, Anka Stelling

Starring: Annika Kuhl, Stefan Rudolf, Arno Frisch, Maria Simon, Juan Carlos Lopez

Year: 2010

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: Germany


London 2010

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