In My Room


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

In My Room
"Patrick Orth's cinematography gives this a beguiling warmth but it's really Löw's performance that makes it work." | Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

There's little sense of home, of personality, in Armin's small flat. It's sparsely furnished, functional - but it's not functioning so well anymore, and neither is he. Somehow he's lost his touch both at work and in his social life. Perhaps he's lost his passion for it. The only thing that really seems meaningful to him is his relationship with his ageing parents, which is far from perfect but seems to give him a sense of belonging, of connection to the world.

Then one day, Armin wakes up and his parents - and everybody else in the world - is gone.

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At first confused, then weighed down with grief, Armin subsequently goes through a spell of living for the hell of it, driving a sports car at breakneck speed around narrow, twisting streets. Only one thing brings him peace, however, and that's something very ordinary and simple and grounded, yet something rarely seen in stories of this sort. Having lost his human family, he creates a family of animals, living as a small-scale farmer in the land where he spent his childhood. When he eventually encounters another human being, he already has a full life with plenty of responsibilities; he has shed that loneliness that is found in crowds.

Ulrich Köhler's latest work is as thoughtful and as visually rich as ever. He draws on a lengthy cinematic tradition most recently exemplified by Reed Morano's I Think We're Alone Now, which similarly observes that not everyone shares the same craving for human company. Unlike Morano's hero, however, Armin (played by Hans Löw) doesn't actively dislike other people, he just doesn't know how to engage with them, needing to feel at ease with himself first. Köhler uses the format to explore ideas around interdependence and the desire for control over one's own fate or somebody else's, with Armin's interactions with his animals as significant as those he has with other people.

Being alone should not, of course, mean having to go without all the benefits of civilisation, and Köhler's film is an object lesson in how much can be achieved independently with a little ingenuity and the benefit of centuries of learning. Much of the film is taken up with watching Armin work and Köhler uses this to help us forge our own connection with him and shares the pleasure of his world. Patrick Orth's cinematography gives this a beguiling warmth but it's really Löw's performance that makes it work. When Armin goes from being a mere passenger in life to a man responsible for his own fate, we see him come alive.

An intimate film that really draws in the viewer, In My Room presents an unusually lyrical take on the end of the world as we know it. Its melancholy undertones are there from the start, suggestive of a longstanding malaise, but Köhler invites us to believe that with or without us, the world will be alright.

Reviewed on: 27 Dec 2019
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A bored man suddenly realises that everyone around him has disappeared and he isn't sure what happened.

Director: Ulrich Köhler

Writer: Ulrich Köhler

Starring: Hans Löw, Elena Radonicich, Antonia Putiloff

Year: 2018

Runtime: 119 minutes

Country: Germany, Italy

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