Four Hands


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Four Hands
"It's rare to see this approach taken in cinema, humanity finding a way in where there would ordinarily be panic, horror and destruction."

Sophie and Jessica are young children when we first meet them, playing the piano together in a large, elegantly appointed room. Being the youngest and less skilled, Sophie takes the lead with Jessica as secondo, ostensibly following but actually doing the more difficult work. Jessica is patient with her sister's mistakes. We can already see her protectiveness. When all of a sudden, they hear a crash followed by screaming and shouting from the adjoining room, they scurry to hide. Jessica covers Sophie's eyes through what follows, whispering to her over and over again that she will never let any harm come to her.

20 years later, Sophie is the one on the verge of a career as a concert pianist. Jessica is an emotional wreck, never really having recovered from what she saw. She has been made worse by the news that the perpetrators, in prison for all this time, are now being released. A fierce argument between the two women leads to an accident with devastating consequences - yet somehow the music goes on.

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Exploring similar material to the recent Incident In A Ghostland but in a very different way, Four Hands is a story of obsession, possessiveness and a powerful bond which, in the end, it might be folly to break. Some of the devices used in telling the story are quite crude and viewers may think they've got the measure of it, anticipated the twist, but to do so is to miss what's present in the subscript. It's really a story about acknowledging damage, acknowledging the impact that trauma can have, and finding a way to live with it. In this it's unusually positive and quite daring. It's rare to see this approach taken in cinema, humanity finding a way in where there would ordinarily be panic, horror and destruction.

Frida-Lovisa Hamann and Friederike Becht, as the adult Sophie and Jessica, deliver carefully pitched performances, neither attempting to steal the show from the other. Their balance is as important as that of the hands on the piano keyboard. Christoph Letkowski, as medic love interest Martin, provides a point of reference for the audience as the narrative becomes increasingly fractured. Martin's assured interest but cautious approach keeps the film refreshingly free of sentiment and helps us see the characters as they really are, not through a further haze of emotion.

Cinematographer Yoshi Heimrath gives the film a deliberately dark and moody look reminiscent of Nordic noir, and stylistically it's very much in that vein, though the plot is simpler. Sometimes this moodiness gets a bit much and eats away at one's patience with the characters, but overall this is an impressive piece of work, stepping beyond cynicism and finding a way to keep playing.

Reviewed on: 13 Sep 2018
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When two sisters witness a brutal crime as children, one becomes obsessed with protecting the other.

Director: Oliver Kienle

Writer: Oliver Kienle

Starring: Frida-Lovisa Hamann, Friederike Becht, Christoph Letkowski

Year: 2017

Runtime: 94 minutes

Country: Germany


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