TIFF Romania Review: Breaking Horizons (2012)

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Cast: Aylin Tezek, Henrike von Kuick, Tómas Lemarquis
Director: Pola Schirin Beck
Country: Germany | France
Genre: Drama
Official Trailer: Here


Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage for the 12th Annual Transilvania International Film Festival. For more information on Breaking Horizons visit http://tiff.ro/en and follow TIFF Romania on Twitter at @TIFFromania.

It’s a magical state of perpetual transition, student life, caught halfway between the worlds of childhood education and adult actuality, just far removed enough from the harsh realities of life to still retain some shred of the vibrant optimism of youth. Firmly targeted toward some idyllic professional outcome, the student experience is—for many, if not most—one last spell of fun before the cruel mundanity of reality arrives to take its place. That’s the old cliché, at any rate, and one which Lara, the twenty-something protagonist of Breaking Horizons, is determined to embrace with a wild lifestyle of partying and sex despite the deep-seated knowledge that she has little interest in her chosen path in life.

As Lara, Aylin Tezel gives an extraordinary performance, making powerfully real the transition from layabout student to responsible, forward-thinking mother-to-be. She makes relatable a character arc that, its familiarity considered, might easily be painfully trite, beautifully humanising her character—flaws and all—and holding our compassion through whatever ill-advised decisions she makes.

breaking_horizons_2012_3A number of short endeavours to her name, Pola Schirin Beck makes her feature filmmaking debut here, declaring herself a talent to be closely watched. An almost tantalisingly elliptical sequence opens the film, quick cuts and breezy, brightly-lit shots of youthful reverie painting the screen with a story of frivolity and gaiety; we decipher, eventually, that these are Lara and Nora, her best friend and companion in all her various adventures. That gaiety is not to last, however, and it’s not long before Beck shows her hand and turns a grimy one-night-stand into a pregnancy for Lara, rudely catapulting her character into the very world of reality and responsibility she so worked so intently to avoid.

As Lara, Aylin Tezel gives an extraordinary performance, making powerfully real the transition from layabout student to responsible, forward-thinking mother-to-be. She makes relatable a character arc that, its familiarity considered, might easily be painfully trite, beautifully humanising her character—flaws and all—and holding our compassion through whatever ill-advised decisions she makes. Burkhart Wunderlich, in his first feature script, has written a character that abundantly makes mistakes; he is fortunate to have had her brought to life by an actress as talented as Tezel, who never allows us to resent her for them. Particularly toward the end of the film, and with it her character’s emotional journey, Tezel stuns with the depth of her expressivity, encapsulating every vagrant stage of this draining development.

At its heart, it’s these themes to which Breaking Horizons speaks: our development as people, and the differences between the path we envision for ourselves and the one we actually take.

breaking_horizons_2012_4She needs it not, but the aid offered Tezel by the rest of the film’s cast is a strong support, particularly that of Tómas Lemarquis as an upstairs neighbour with whom she begins a refreshingly platonic relationship. It’s lovely to see a director pitch a friendship between characters of opposite gender, both heterosexual, entirely without the suggestion of romance; Tezel and Lemarquis carry this capably, maintaining a fine chemistry without ever undermining the simplicity of their dynamic. His romantic woes make an interesting counterpoint to Lara’s own situation in life, as of course do those of Nora—well played by Henrike von Kuick—whose increasingly strained relationship to Lara is a key feature of the film’s rumination on personal growth, and how the way we change impacts the way we relate to others.

At its heart, it’s these themes to which Breaking Horizons speaks: our development as people, and the differences between the path we envision for ourselves and the one we actually take. In her pre-pregnancy life as a promising architecture student, her talent catching the eye of her teacher, Lara has a clear idyll of a life standing before her. After the one night that changes it all, the physical growth within her nothing compared to the emotional and behavioural growth she herself undergoes, she—and we with her—arrive at a more rational, realistic view of life and its little compromises. This is, after all, but a simple coming-of-age story, albeit a belated and slightly unwilling one. But then isn’t that the mark of a great film, to renew an old formula with newfound depths of emotional detail?

[notification type=”star”]80/100 ~ GREAT. Breaking Horizons is, after all, but a simple coming-of-age story, albeit a belated and slightly unwilling one. But then isn’t that the mark of a great film, to renew an old formula with newfound depths of emotional detail?[/notification]

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.