Stars: Paula Beer, Franz Rogowski, Maryam Zaree, Jacob Matschenz
German writer-director Petzold reunites with the stars of his haunting existential thriller, 'Transit' for this oblique but nicely-played romantic drama, inspired by the titular myth.
Beer is Undine, a historian who lectures on urban development at the Berlin City Museum. One morning, just prior to giving a lecture, she is visited by her lover Johannes (Matschenz) who announces that he is breaking their relationship off. She is devastated, telling him that she will have to kill him if he leaves her (in the myth Undine must kill her unfaithful lover in order to return to her life as a water nymph). Nonetheless she is able to return to work and, seemingly unrattled, delivers her usual lecture.
After her shift, she goes to a bar across the street where she meets Christoph (Rogowski) a soft-spoken but charming industrial diver. There is an obvious attraction, but their conversation is interrupted when they are drenched when a fish tank above them breaks (symbolism ahoy!). A passionate romance develops and it seems that Christoph may be able to save Undine from her supposed destiny.
The picture sees Petzold returning to his favoured theme of how a repressed past can inform the future via Undine’s lectures on urban regeneration and degeneration, while Hans Fromm’s versatile cinematography ranges from intense expressive close-ups to gorgeous underwater footage. The melding of swooning Sirkian melodrama with myth and fantasy does not quite come off, and the meaning ultimately feels elusive, but the central performances, particularly Beer's soulful turn, keep it afloat.
Undine is available to steam on Curzon Home Cinema from 2nd April
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