© farbfilm-verleih/barnsteiner-film

Schöner Leben
Germany 2006

Opening 15 Nov 2007

Directed by: Markus Herling
Writing credits: Markus Herling
Principal actors: Karin Düwel, Klaus Gehrke, Susanne Ugé, Ruth Krüger-Willkomm, Joel Eisenblätter

It’s a cold and grey Christmas Eve in Berlin. Empty streets void of holiday cheer, shuffling passengers on dreary subway platforms. The bleak stories of several denizens are played out: Elke, a single mother with no money to buy Christmas presents for her children; an out-of-work actor trying too hard at an audition for a tiny part; Joseph, who – despite hours of therapy -- can’t get over the break-up with his girlfriend several months ago; Otto, a widowed subway driver who still mourns for his wife. The characters are all looking for something they badly need: money, love, recognition. But despite their various attempts, it seems most of them will remain forsaken, forced to face their greatest fears and failures.

The stories are told in short scenes, interspersed with each other to create a mosaic of actions and interactions. Several of the characters come in contact briefly, but otherwise the stories have nothing to do with each other, which contributes to the sense of loneliness and isolation. The characters and their surroundings are portrayed with unflattering reality, from the mother hanging her laundry on a clothes drying rack in her tiny kitchen to shots of Joseph brushing his teeth. Much of the time I felt like I was watching a TV-movie or soap opera, with close-ups showing emotional reactions to various situations.

Although in the end several characters find an unexpected glimmer of hope to help them through this worst of times, this is not really an uplifting holiday film. However, this depressing and gritty slice of ordinary life in Berlin will surely help you to feel thankful for all that you have. In German. (Erica Fox Zabusky)

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