Lamour, l'argent, l'amour
Love, Money, Love (2000 / Germany, Switzerland, France / Philip Grning)
Marie and David. Two loners. Both living in Berlin, both in the 20s, and both with a crappy job. He a scrapyard worker, she a prostitute. Employment at its lowest, with no future in sight, the moment being all one can think of, all one has to think of. The lowest of the working class. At least she gets a bigger amount of money than he does, and she can work anyplace her kind is always wanted - and, even more important, there is no pimp in sight. So both are also self-employers in the worst of ways. What can come out of such a situation, such a constellation. A love story, probably a dedicated denouncement of society. Well, yes and no. What Grning offers us instead of a melodramatic and clich-ridden didactic play, is an essayistic and fragmented self-discovery trip towards inner freedom.
In her first acting role, Sabine Timoteo plays the seemingly self-assured but emotionaly troubled Marie who gets teased out of her shell through an insistent and sensitive human being, played by newcomer Florian Stetter. Though amateur actors, both give incredible performances, once again proving the importance of a talented director who brings the best out of both. Especially Timoteo, who delivers a performance that isnt easy to stomach. Alongside other awards she deservedly won the Bronze Leopard for Best Actress at the 2000 Locarno Film festival. Besides the fabulous actors there is the remarkable camerawork of Sophie Maintigneux, who is maybe best remembered for her work on Eric Rohmers The Green Ray. She uses the 1:2.35 widescreen format not in a static way as one could expect, but is always on the move, generating an equivalent to the characters inner unrest and giving the feeling of being on the road, always searching for something that keeps slipping out of reach.
When Marie runs into David during her working hours on the street both instantly fall in love. But as the characters themselves, Grning keeps the viewer in an uncertainty regarding their feelings or motivations. Following a night after which David proposes that they both go on a trip, together, towards the sea the displacement of the characters becomes also more obvious. They dont seem to fit in their environment, while merging ceaselessly with it. The locations keep changing, while the situations keep repeating themselves. After Marie has thrown David out of her apartment in the morning after both spent the night together, he visits her on the street. She seems both pleased and disturbed by his presence, once more rushing him off. A few days later it is she who storms into his apartment, finally starting the trip that will change both lifes forever. The game soon gets repetitive. New town, new people, new problems. Money, carelessly spent on the way has to be earned in a hard way. It doesnt help much that in the course of the film David gets both arms broken. Soon Marie has to start working again, employing David as her pimp. But while Marie is more or less resistent to the luxuries money has to offer, she seems the whole film obsessed by it. For her it is some kind of fetish, an object that in represents all she is capable of achieving in a materialistic world. David on the other side, at first concerned about every cent, becomes less and less reluctant in spending it. Additionally there is the problem of physical contact. While both seem spiritually connected from the beginning, any physical or sexual contact that isnt alienated from ones feelings becomes a huge obstacle for Marie to overcome. They fight, split, reconcile, fight again, all the time victims of their surroundings and a system that keeps them locked and is supportive of their problems. But as the title suggest, in the end love overcomes all obstacles. Deprived of their car and their belongings, they are stranded at a forlorn seacost, where Marie finally regains her hope. She burns the remaining money and admits her love to David. What is left is the sea and the sky, and the changing of tides in the neverending flow of time.
The person in charge of the whole operation is clearly Philip Grning. Besides directing and producing, he also edited the film, wrote the script and sometimes even did the camerawork . An auteur in the best sense, Grning nevertheless doesnt try to impose any personal style on the film, that keeps unfolding in a most natural way, seemingly born out of itself. The characters and the locations all exist in their own right, never giving the impression of a forced or ego-driven project. Fast-paced as the film appears, viewers might by irritated that the same director is also responsible for the three hour meditation about life and spirituality Into Great Silence that keeps touring the festival-circuit after having won The special jury Prize at last years Sundance Film festival. All the more credit to Philip Grning for letting each film determine its own rhythm. Like Kurt, the dog David and Marie take with them everywhere they go, the very flexible camera follows each and every step of the protagonists, registering banal as well as intimate moments. Grning is always the perfect observer. Never judging, never preaching, always showing. The love, the hate, the desperation, the alienation, the people, the landscape, coldness and warmth, sometimes from afar, and sometimes so near that it hurts. The shots presented are at once immediate and allegorical, the daily events gaining an importance and relevance that also transcends them. Out of the monotoneous repetition grows an awareness for the realities that cannot be grasped easily, cannot be categorized. If you only engage with it. Same goes for the viewers of this film. You wont get any answers, but if you observe closely you might start giving them to yourself.
Featuring an eclectical mix of music, from Calixico and Snowpatrol over The Velvet Underground to Bob Dylan and even Mozart, the whole film can also be seen as a long fugue, an ode to life, and to its basic principles. Everything changes, everything is constantly in movement. And what can keep the whole together and offer some kind of sense could be love for those who are able to find it.
I watched the film on a Region 2 DVD under the shorter title Lamour. Released in Germany by the company Epix it has german, english and french subtitles. Picture format is 1: 2.35, running time 124 min, and the audio track is optionally stereo or dolby digital 5.1.
Extras are very extensive and include amongst others an alternative ending (c. 30 min), Interviews with the director, Behind the scenes, deleted scenes, the original treatment of the film, and the short film Sehnsucht by Tobias Mller.
You can get the film at the German Amazon site (just type in amazon.de, and search in the DVD section to find it)