Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Yo plays deep. Beneath the perception of things lies a reality that knocks at the door late at night. The audience is dawn closer in case a casual word, or movement, will shed a light, leave a clue, suggest another way that will unravel the mystery.

Hans (co-writer Alex Brendemuhl) is a shy, decent, slow man. Nothing is known about him. He arrives in a quiet mountain village in Majorca, where tourists don’t go, to take up a job with a fat, obnoxious, bullying, rich, German businessman, who holidays in a spacious villa with his smart, attractive, jolly, younger wife.

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Already there is a feeling of unease. The contrast between this alien couple is so acute it feels stylized and artificial. The man’s gross bad manners are somehow absorbed by the woman’s superficiality. How, you wonder, can they live together? But that’s not what this is about. Not entirely, anyway.

What this is about is Hans. No, not the shy, slow fellow with the ugly sweaters and frayed denim jacket. The Hans at the heart of Yo is the one who preceded him as gardener and handy man. They called him Mr Hans in the village and one day he vanished without a word, leaving all his stuff. His employer didn’t give it another thought. He has a new Hans now. The locals in the bar are wary of the replacement Hans because he has the same name and is also German. For whatever reason, the first Hans was universally disliked. “He broke my husband’s head,” says the cook, who takes perverse pleasure in serving up disgusting food to the second Hans.

The film is shot in greys and blacks. It rains a lot. Gloom hangs like the corpse of a butchered hog. Hans becomes increasingly obsessed with Mr Hans to the point where he feels his presence. Are the scattered memories of bad Hans affecting the behavior of good Hans?

The locals are unfriendly, or a little mad. Nothing is spoken out loud about the secret, if there is a secret, of why Mr Hans disappeared, whether he was killed because of his treatment of the barmaid. The silence is deafening and still Hans is regarded with suspicion. And yet he doesn’t leave. He has no life; he is treated like Cain; job satisfaction barely breaks the surface; the food is horrible.

Co-writer/director Rafa Cortes has something of Antonioni about him, especially during the L’Avventura period. He creates an atmosphere as thick as blood, which he slowly stirs. He likes the handheld camera, close intimate visuals, suggesting an emotional connection, but, as with the late Michelangelo, there is none, only the cold, cold lens and an understanding that fear festers like the cut of a rusty scythe.

Reviewed on: 20 Aug 2007
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The mystery of two men called Hans.

Director: Rafa Cortes

Writer: Alex Brendemuhl, Rafa Cortes

Starring: Alex Brendemuhl, Margalida Grimalt, Rafel Ramis, Heinz Hoenig, Maria Lanau, Aina de Cos, Manuel Barcelo, Holger Petzold, Carme Feliu

Year: 2006

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: Spain


EIFF 2007

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