As shown by the recent Ciné Lumière season, there are exciting signs of new life in the long moribund German cinema, notably emanating from the so-called Berlin school. One of its emerging talents is Valeska Grisebach, who made an impression with her debut feature ‘Be My Star’, an intimate realist study of teenagers and their romantic concerns. In her latest, ‘Longing’, a group of teenagers discuss love and fate in a scene of telling, lightly observed, playground metaphysics. Some of the many intriguing fascinations of Grisebach’s thoughtful and engrossing movie are how those metaphysics, hopes and aspirations, pervade the main, more melancholy story: how they persist and dangerously confuse the mind of adults such as Markus (Andreas Müller), a metal worker and part-time fireman in Zühle, a village of 200 souls on the outskirts of Berlin, married and much in love with his wife, Ella (Ilka Welz), who finds himself bemused and torn by an accidental affair conducted on a brigade training weekend.
Ably and economically written, directed and edited (by Grisebach) and shot (by Bernhard Keller), ‘Longing’ shows, too, the fruits of the Berlin ‘back to basics’ approach; in Grisebach’s case, her skilful nurturing of emotionally-charged performances from non-professionals not only feeds from the stuff of real experience but in shedding some actorly excesses, tricks and melodramatic tropes seems to nudge closer to the workings of the human heart and its mysterious machinations – that elusive grail of the realists, the transcendence of the
‘ordinary’. It would be wrong to overpraise ‘Longing’; it’s a modest film, but richly rewarding and full of promise for the future.