Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the Munich International Film Festival. For more information visit filmfest-muenchen.de/en and follow the Filmfest München on Twitter at @filmfestmunich.
The postmodern film Nachthelle is Florian Gottschick’s diploma film and introduces the young, innovative director and recent graduate to a wide audience at the Munich Filmfest. Based on the title of a poem written by Johann Gabriel Seidl and a musical piece composed by Franz Schubert, Nachthelle explores the human unconsciousness, love and fear as well as repressed emotions, guilt and sexual freedom.
The innovative script by Florian Gottschick and Carsten Happe offers a discontinuous structure and challenges the audience with its playfulness and distortions.
The film is set in the countryside of Eastern Germany where open brown coal pits dominate the monotonous landscape. In order to make room for the coal industry, Anna’s (Anna Grisebach) former childhood hometown had to be relocated. Most people have already left the area and with that the developing ghost town behind. Before it is about to be completely demolished, Anna returns to spend one last weekend with her boyfriend Stefan (Vladimir Burlakov) in the abandoned, idyllic small village. They are accompanied by her former high school boyfriend Bernd (Benno Fürmann), along with his partner Marc (Kai Ivo Baulitz), a psychiatrist. Their open homosexual relationship seems attractive to Stefan whereas Anna is concerned about the whole situation in general. Although their weekend is off to a good start, old secrets and repressed feelings resurface and are threatened to be exposed which leaves Anna to be haunted by her past and forced to come to terms with herself.
Freud’s psychoanalysis plays a crucial role in Nachthelle as it serves as a recurring topic throughout the film with several discussions by the characters, especially by psychiatrist Marc who challenges Anna’s relationship with Stefan and offers the latter the opportunity to explore his unconscious desires to follow his internal drives. Freudian themes such as the division of the human psyche into ego and alter ego are not only thematically intertwined within the story but also influence the narrative structure. The innovative script by Florian Gottschick and Carsten Happe offers a discontinuous structure and challenges the audience with its playfulness and distortions.
The thriller is a refreshing, rare genre film within the German cinematic landscape dominated by comedies and social dramas, especially regarding Germany’s historical context.
The thriller is a refreshing, rare genre film within the German cinematic landscape dominated by comedies and social dramas, especially regarding Germany’s historical context. Nachthelle is able to visually stir a mysterious atmosphere, mainly through the deserted village with its strange remaining people and the threatening sounds of the rumbling coal pits digging deeper and moving in closer to the village and the main characters. Cinematographer Jakob Seeman uses ocher colors during daylight scenes to further enhance the feeling of the hot summer days. During the night, the often used blue colors work in order to create the mystic feeling surrounding Anna and her struggles in coming clean with her past. While the beginning of the film kicks off a bit slow, Nachthelle picks up much faster after the first suspenseful twists and turns that leave the audience wondering about still missing background information that are slowly but not completely being explored.
An innovative, refreshing genre film that challenges the German cinematic landscape with its unconventional narrative structure and subject matter.