Requiem (2006 / Germany / Hans-Christian Schmid)

This is the place to talk about films from around the world.

Requiem (2006 / Germany / Hans-Christian Schmid)

Postby A » Sun Jun 11, 2006 8:11 pm

Inner Demons are haunting 21 year old Michaela (Sandra Hller), but of what kind, at first nobody seems to be able to say. Having grown up in a small village in Southern Germany, she is accepted at university, and moves away from her family into her own appartment in a bigger city. But her past keeps coming back to her. The film concentrates on the short time-span between the departure of Michaela into a life of her own, and her final arrival back home, til the moment in which she completely surrenders herself to the will of others. The last image of the film shows her in what seemed to me a state of complete acceptance of her situation, and after a fade-out we are informed that she died shortly thereafter.
The past life the protagonist cant get rid of, is represented by the parents, religion, and her (home)community in general. From these main factors the mental illness that keeps bothering her seems to have resulted. Being referred to as epilepsy numerous times during the film, it nevertheless remains unclear what exactly is bothering her (my impression was of a developing schizophrenia). And from the characters almost no one really seems to care.
As far as the director is concerned, this topic seems rightly secondary, as the main focus is clearly the actions and reactions of Michaela and her surroundings to this problem. A seemingly objective sociological character study, an observational account which takes an individuals story that can subsequently be interpreted in a universal way, applicable to many varying topics and situations. An approach to filmmaking that has in recent years become very popular amongst younger German directors.

Where I saw director Hans-Christian Schmid sruggling in Requiem, was in his disinterest with the actual story he was filming, which is based on real accounts from the 70s. In my opinion, Schmid seemed to be exterminating his own inner demons, modelling the character of Michaela on (a) person(s) he may have known in the past. The weakness of his direction is thus a personal auteurist approach which is badly disguised, making the film resemble rather an experiment than a focused attempt. Sadly this experiment for most parts doesnt work out, as the film gets entangled in its own inconsistencies. An affective camerawork which tends to point out obtrusevily the unsubtle direction at some points, while its images become interchangable and the direction seems clueless at others. Same goes for Sandra Hller who has some very effective scenes, paired with others where she doesnt seem to get the character. Her face reminded me at times of Isabelle Huppert, and she certainly has a lot of screen presence. But the overall performance was too unbalanced to be completely successful. I wonder why Schmid hasnt given such a difficult role to a more professional actress. Looking at Isabelle Adjani in Andrzej Zulawskis Possession (1981) where she pulls off a more demanding role proves quite helpful in discerning some weaknesses in Requiem. The problem thus doesnt actually lie with Sandra Hller (who was rightfully praised) nor with the camerawork or any other technical department, but with the director himself. After the highpoint with Lichter in 2003, Schmid nevertheless seems on an interesting journey as a filmmaker, and I am curious to know which subject he will explore in his next film. I hope it will be more of a personal endeavor, rather than a (literal) adaptation.
The great things about Requiem are the few sequences where Schmid successfully blends the images with the 70s soundtrack, letting Hllers face and body tell us more than her words and the often forced dialogue ever could. Through tihis he is opening up space for reflection in scenes which are packed with emotion and detached at the same moment. For once the discrepancy works, and the perfect ending offers us one of the greatest moments you will be able to experience at the movies in 2006. But if we disregard the inspirational moments which are scattered throughout the film, the overall experience resembles more a half-hearted attempt at copying the Dardenne Brothers. Although, regarding all the critical praise from the media especially here in germany where the film was hailed as a masterpiece - it seems like Im pretty much alone with my evaluation. So you can start bashing me when you have seen the film for yourself.

In an effective twist at the end, the only person who is actually concerned about Michaela herself and not about his/her own problems with the situation is her former classmate who was first introduced as a very unlikable character with identity problems of her own.
The forces of good and evil are difficult to be separated, and when a person tries to erase a portion of her identity death can be a result. Martyrdom as the inability to reconcile the inner forces. But the opinions on this are surely going to differ.
__________________________________________________

The film premiered in the competition of the 2006 Berlin Film Festival garnering a best actress award for Sandra Hller and the FIPRESCI Prize.
personal rating is 60 out of 100
A
 


Re: Requiem (2006 / Germany / Hans-Christian Schmid)

Postby arsaib4 » Mon Jun 12, 2006 2:29 am

Thanks for the review, A. As you know, I'm very interested in this film; hopefully, unlike previous Schmid's efforts, it'll receive some distribution in the U.S. I've seen Possession, very unique to say the least, though it was ultimately unsatisfying, which is just about your reaction to Requiem. Yeah, Adjani, who I think won the Best Actress prize at Cannes for her role, was quite good.

Any news on Requiem's DVD release?
arsaib4
 

Re: Requiem (2006 / Germany / Hans-Christian Schmid)

Postby A » Thu Jun 15, 2006 12:46 pm

I think Requiem has so far the biggest chances for international distribution, considering the awards and attention it got, and the (popular?) topic of exorcism (with which it actually deals only marginally).
I'm extremely fond of Possession, as it is imo one of the best depictions of traumatic relationships on screen. I especially love it how it depicts a totally altered perception of the world under extreme psychological strain. Very honest and true to life without merely replicating it, but adding a complete reflective process.
As for Requiem, there can't be any real comparison besides some very short acting scenes. Schmid seems to be nowhere the director Zulawski was, as he is imo far better with observing inner depictions in an "impressionistic" way, than with exposing them outwardly like Zulawski - a completely different approach to film.
And Requiem has many problems with dialogue and character-confrontation when it doesn't rise over regular TV-fare in many moments (luckily, compared to most TV, the acting is far better!).

I'll keep you informed on a DVD release that will at least surely be available here in Germany. But as of now, I have no information, otherwise I would have posted a link. Seems like some good habits are rubbing off on me
A
 

Re: Requiem (2006 / Germany / Hans-Christian Schmid)

Postby arsaib4 » Mon Sep 04, 2006 1:26 am

Just wanted to mention that Requiem now has a U.S. distributor: IFC Films. The film will open in limited engagements starting October 20th.
arsaib4
 

Re: Requiem (2006 / Germany / Hans-Christian Schmid)

Postby arsaib4 » Fri Nov 10, 2006 7:20 am

"As far as the director is concerned, this topic seems rightly secondary, as the main focus is clearly the actions and reactions of Michaela and her surroundings to this problem. A seemingly objective sociological character study, an observational account which takes an individuals story that can subsequently be interpreted in a universal way, applicable to many varying topics and situations."

That's correct. I'm not sure, then, why in your earlier comments you seemed unsatisfied with the lack of details regarding her illness. I think Requiem's attention to Michaela complex psychological behavior, and not just her "physical" illness, is one of its strong points. (I'm also glad that Schmid didn't explicitly take religion and medicine to task, which is what we normally see in these sort of films.)

"The weakness of his direction is thus a personal auteurist approach which is badly disguised, making the film resemble rather an experiment than a focused attempt."

Would you mind expanding on this a bit? Thanks.

"An affective camerawork which tends to point out obtrusevily the unsubtle direction at some points, while its images become interchangable and the direction seems clueless at others."

I didn't had a problem with the hand-held camerawork; if anything it brought certain immediacy to the proceedings. And as I've mentioned elsewhere, I was quite impressed by the economy of the screenplay and the editing. This subject matter is often approached in a sensational manner, but for the most part Requiem is an exception. (Last year's The Exorcism of Emily Rose was also based on this same actual 1976 case, but from the parts I've seen on television, the presentation is blatantly heightened for mass-appeal.)

"The great things about Requiem are the few sequences where Schmid successfully blends the images with the 70s soundtrack, letting Hllers face and body tell us more than her words and the often forced dialogue ever could. Through tihis he is opening up space for reflection in scenes which are packed with emotion and detached at the same moment. For once the discrepancy works, and the perfect ending offers us one of the greatest moments you will be able to experience at the movies in 2006."

I agree!
arsaib4
 

Re: Requiem (2006 / Germany / Hans-Christian Schmid)

Postby A » Mon Nov 13, 2006 10:44 pm

I wasn't unsatisfied with the lack of details regarding her illness, and didn't want to give this impression. I tried to state it as a "fact". If there was something bothering me, it was the topic of exorsism, which wouldn't have been necessary in such an amount in this film. I realize that Requiem is based on actual events, and my statement may thus seem a bit absurd, but this leads to the second quote in your post.
The "weakness" of the direction was imo, that Schmid chose this story about exorcism when he was actually concerned with something else (this is my impression). I think he wasn't interested in the screenplay as it was (see the fantastic movie-moments I refer to at the end of my review and which you also quote - they are not from the original screenplay), but used it as a way with dealing with personal issues that concerned himself. BUT, and that is my objection, he went into a direction where he tried to disguise this halfheartedly (or subconsciously?) and was still entangled in the story and the real life events. Thus we have a situation, where a filmmaker isn't making 100% the film he wants to make, but he also doesn't deal 100% with the material he has.
There is imo no doubt about the talent of Schmid as a filmmaker. But I only hope that he will dare to express himself(!) more openly next time.
If I draw the parallel to Zulawski and his Possession again. Zulawski went through 4 years of divorce which was like hell to him in the late 70s, and I think this lead to an extremely honest and powerful film. Schmid maybe hasn't the self-esteem yet, to expose himself in a similar way on the screen.
But this is exactly what I expect from the best filmmakers. To present their ideas or their experiences as "honestly" as possible, (in their own ways of course). Examples for this are Hitchcock (Vertigo), Kubrick (Barry Lyndon), Chaplin (City Lights, Limelight), and of course Jean Eustache.
I mention all of these great directors, because I think Schmid has a lot of potential. He just needs to take more risks. I think this is something which still seperates him from other young german mavericks like Ulrich Khler. But his last film Lichter, and the fact that Requiem contains so far the best and most powerful moments in in his filmmaking career is already a sign that he is imo moving in the "right" direction.

The camerawork was too much "to the point" for me very often. It didn't just register or show certain inner changes in the characters but pointed them out (that was my impression of course). I don't like it, when I realize what a character is thinking or going through in a certain moment because the film has been succesfull in hinting at it and making me complete the picture, only to get it accentuated at the end of such a moment through a close-up of a face or some other "obvious" device in the context of the film. I would even prefer a narrator who would recapitulate what was already shown than to get it "summed up" a second time through the visuals.
Maybe it's just me, but I'm always disappointed when a film further develops the characters in a subtle way, and then again "shows" us the result at the end of such a sequence. I feel like the filmmaker hasn't enough faith in (or patience with)his audience in such situations.

After reading it again, I think the sentence you quote is a bit of a mess (again, you must excuse my english). Maybe I should have formulated it something like this:
"An affective camerawork tends often to point out obtrusevily the initially subtle characterizations of the protagonists making the direction appear insecure at some points and destroying the momentum and the rhythm of a scene. And there is also a problem that the images become interchangable and the direction seems clueless at other moments, when Schmid doesn't know if he should focus on what he wants to tell, or what the screenplay is about."
I liked the editing, but it didn't always go well with the camera in moments like these.

The screenplay was a bit of a real problem though. I didn't have problems with its concept (and its economy) per se, but the dialogue often kept bothering me. I thought it was at times unconvincing and forced, and didn't fit with the visual style Schmid tried to evoke. In the end this is of course the "fault" of the director (if things don't work he has to change them). Nevertheless the screenplay as it appeared to have been was the film's biggest weakness in my opinion.

A short anecdote on this:
A couple of weeks after I had seen the film, I met a friend who started talking about the film. She didn't like it, because she thought the screenplay was worth . The scenarist had been a fellow student of hers at university, and had written it in those times. She said that she was amazed that Hans-Christian Schmid had chosen it for his film. I thought her assesmet might have been a bit personal - due to the circumstances - but I agreed that while I liked the film, I also didn't like the screenplay.

There are of course a lot of exploitive and sensationalist attempts at cashing in on the topic of exorcism, but I knew that "Requiem" would be beyond such concerns, considering Schmid's respectful and restrained approach to everything he had done before.
I'm also glad that Schmid didn't go after religion and medicine in a direct way. In the context of the film and his filmmaking the attacks on it were very effective the way they were presented.

Whow, just wanted to make a short reply, and have ended up writing a bit more. But I'll have to finish, as I need to get home.
A
 

Re: Requiem (2006 / Germany / Hans-Christian Schmid)

Postby arsaib4 » Sun Nov 19, 2006 9:58 pm

Thanks for your thoughts.

"The "weakness" of the direction was imo, that Schmid chose this story about exorcism when he was actually concerned with something else (this is my impression). I think he wasn't interested in the screenplay as it was (see the fantastic movie-moments I refer to at the end of my review and which you also quote - they are not from the original screenplay), but used it as a way with dealing with personal issues that concerned himself. BUT, and that is my objection, he went into a direction where he tried to disguise this halfheartedly (or subconsciously?) and was still entangled in the story and the real life events."

This, needless to say, is complete and utter supposition on your part. I know that you partially agree with that, but your remarks could easily be construed as personal accusations rather than criticism of the film. Unless, of course, if you have any real evidence to support your claims.
arsaib4
 

Re: Requiem (2006 / Germany / Hans-Christian Schmid)

Postby hengcs » Mon Nov 20, 2006 1:45 am

Hi,
I have watched it in the recent German Film Fest ... just kind of too busy to add more comments ... but in a few words, I thought the film was good ... though kind of scary (as in i seldom like to watch "horror" film) ...
hengcs
 

Re: Requiem (2006 / Germany / Hans-Christian Schmid)

Postby A » Thu Nov 23, 2006 1:10 pm

@arsaib.
Yes, this is just a personal problem I have with the film, and i wasn't able to find anything that would support my claim. If I get the opportunity to speak with Schmid in the future I'll ask him whether this was the case.

Speaking about not being "personal" enough, I found this the only problem in Ulrich Khler's most recent film "Windows on Monday". At the screening I attended he said that the film was an experiment of sorts, because he doesn't have the experience of the situations presented in the film,and that he was inspired by observing patterns of behaviour by friends and talking to people of his generation. He wanted to put such persons under extreme circumstances and see what happens. Watching the film often feels like this, but I felt a lack of "authenticity".

If I talk about Carlos Reygadas "Battle in Heaven" for example, I feel that the director himself is part of the experience he is describing, and isn't talking about anything outside of himself, no matter how absurd and grotesque (and stylized) many of the scenes might be.

Somehow I always need this "speaking from the heart" for a film to be great.
That's also something which makes a huge difference between Vertigo and Shadow of a doubt for me.
Though this happens in an "artistic" fashion, with Vertigo I feel as though Hitchcock is sitting in front of me and spilling out his heart, while Shadow of a doubt or even more so The trouble with harry shows me someone performing a prestidigitation and having a lot of fun, which isn't a bad thing, though i don't find it anywhere as inspiring.

I know this is highly subjective, and people react in different ways towards different things. But this is as good as I can express it at the moment.
A
 

Re: Requiem (2006 / Germany / Hans-Christian Schmid)

Postby arsaib4 » Thu Nov 23, 2006 1:13 pm

That's more than good enough. I'm glad I asked.
arsaib4
 

Next

Return to Film Talk

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 9 guests

cron