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Der Wald vor lauter Bäumen (The Forest for the Trees)
Germany 2003

Opening 27 Jan 2005

Directed by: Maren Ade
Writing credits: Maren Ade
Principal actors: Eva Löbau, Daniela Holtz, Jan Neumann, Ilona Schulz, Robert Schupp

In this German film, Melanie (Eva Löbau) arrives in Karlsruhe to assume her first job: teaching German and Biology to ninth graders. She originally comes from Bavaria, and in her enthusiasm to be perfect, overdoes the jolly attempts at friendship without recognizing one true friend, whom she sorely needs. She is too nice. This turns off the other teachers and the neighbors, especially one woman her own age. Have you ever tried being nice to a classroom of ninth graders? Your authority will fizzle immediately, which is what happens to Melanie. The more rejection she experiences, the more loneliness she endures, the more she struggles to make contact, until finally she is totally alone and without hope. The film is especially effective because it’s so real: we all know someone like Melanie and might have been similar to her ourselves at some point in life. Director Maren Ade was happy to film on video, making it an inexpensive way to experiment. Her mother really is a teacher and helped provide the location for the classroom scenes. This is an excellent first film and I especially recommend it to anyone interested in new German cinema (if you understand some Bavarian Schwäbisch). The film appeared at festivals in Toronto, Vancouver, Cairo, Göteburg, Hong Kong, Seoul, Buenos Aires, San Francisco and Sydney. I wonder how people in those countries understood or accepted some typical German customs, such as introducing yourself to the neighbors when you are the new person on the block. (Becky Tan)

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