Opening 29 Sep 2022
Anna (Ioana Iacob) and her 16-year-old daughter Iris (Pola Geiger) live in a huge apartment house isolated away from the city and near a forest. It is surrounded by a golf course and playing fields, all protected by a tall fence. The residents have only each other with no contact to the rest of the insecure world. Anna is responsible for interviewing future occupants who wish to move in. Gerti (Jörg Schüttauf) is the janitor. The poet Wolfram (Moritz Jan) lives in the basement and tries to sell his poems to people as they ride the elevator. Things change when Gerti’s dog disappears. Fear quickly filters into all corners of the house as people suspect a murderer nearby. Anna sets off to find the dog. Iris locks herself in the bathroom, where she stays until the end of the film. She thinks she has mysterious powers which led to the dog’s absence. Frank Drescher, supported by his wife, Erika, organizes a committee to investigate Anna, whose leadership seems irresponsible. Also, Anna and Iris are immigrants, who strive to be accepted by the group.
Here we must seriously consider: where does fear lead? What is the role of community? The Phoebus Apartment house seems to be an actor in its own right: tall, with beautiful, frequently used, staircases. It shelters a group seeking privacy from the world, although there is little privacy inside with TV screens showing the daily lives inside every apartment. There is very little background music, and when music does set in, it is often just two notes plunking back and forth. This German film showed at festivals including the 2022 Berlinale, where it opened the section Perspektive Deutsches Kino, and the 2022 Tribeca where it won best cinematography in an international narrative feature. It is the first full-length film by Natalia Sinelnikova and, as an arthouse film, works better in festivals rather than entertainment, as it is repetitive despite being just over 93 minutes. (Becky Tan)