NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS 2017 - ANGELA SCHANELEC: THE DREAMED PATH/DER TRAUMHAFTE WEG (2016)MIRIAM JAKOB AND THORBJÖRN BJÖRNSSON IN THE DREAMED PATHCouples troubles
This Berlin School film of two couples who intersect somehow thirty years apart at first satisfies with its formal rigor and narrative clarity - until it becomes hard to follow and largely lost me. I did think of Godard but there is a harsh German severity. Its people treat each other cruelly, it treats the audience cruelly.
The film starts in Greece with a couple roughing it in the Eighties (the fall of the Berlin Wall will come up). They are Theres (Miriam Jakob), who's German, and Kenneth (Thorbjörn Björnsson), who's English (though the actor isn't). They sing "Wimaway" ("The Lion Sleeps Tonight") as seated buskers for cash, and he uses change to call home, learning his mother is deathly ill. He goes home, where he and his blind father (Alan Williams) mercy-kill his mother using a large dose of morphine (Kenneth has been a heroin user, and so knows where to get drugs). Theres gets a scholarship to study in Berlin. When he turns up in Berlin, she walks past him. He disappears, leaving his dog chained in the rain in a square. She is now involved with a young German man who works in a hospital.The Dreamed path
is shot in tight 4:3 ratio, and its shots are similarly often pared down eschewing back-and-forth coverage of conversation, showing often one person and only part of the body of the other, with head-on shots of faces and a lack of affect and a several-second delay of response in dialogue. This gives an effect of clarity and focus.
Speaking of clarity and focus, that comes even in the blind father. "Are you completely blind now?" Kenneth asks, and his father says no, and explains exactly what he can see. No colors, but forms moving, and himself as a spot in the mirror. "I recognized immediately that it was you," he tells his son.
There is an odd, haunting scene of kids bathing in an indoor pool. The opening shot is of a couple dozen kids clustered together at the edge of the pool - no preparation. It's arresting. Then starting with one bolder boy they all lower themselves (not diving) into the water. Then, we see a boy in a wheelchair in the distance. He unlocks himself from being hooked into the wheelchair, slides forward - and flops boldly into the water. Later he's helped out and there's a spot like a wound on one leg. "Use spit, that will disinfect it," says one kid, and a girl licks the wound.
In the main second plot section middle-aged actress Ariane (Maren Eggert) splits with her husband David (Phil Hayes), an anthropologist. There is a little girl (Anaïa Zapp) who hurts her left arm and it's put in a cast by a doctor who asks her if she likes sports. She says she liked football. At the end she is by herself kicking a ball around. Theres appears wearing the same red top and black and white skirt she wore in the first scenes. Kenneth has come to Berlin, and it's raining. They look the same.
What gives? Is Schanelec telescoping time? I could not parse these latter sequences. The early ones between Theres and Kenneth and Kenneth and his father and dying mother are clear and memorable. In a longer piece about the director by Blake Williams in Cinema Scope Online
, he calls this "perhaps the freshest and most profoundly emotional film that [Schanelec has] ever made." Vadim Rizov
says he ilked Schanelec's earlier Marseilles
, and The Dreamed path
is "a hilariously severe film, The Marble Index
of Bresson-damaged High European Art Cinema, in which Schanelec sort of gives you enough information to get oriented at the start before systematically adding more and more characters and incidents for whom all context has been elided."The Dreamed Path/Der traumhafte weg
, 86 mins., debuted at Locarno 9 Aug. 2016.Seven other international festivals including Toronto, Hamburg, Vancouver, Cologne and Mar del Plata. It was screened for this review as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center-Museum of Modern Art 20117 New Directors/New Films series, Mar. 2017.