Saturday, December 08, 2007

The State I Am In

dir Christian Petzold

Showing as part of Baader's Angels, this German film from 2000 centres on disaffected teen Jeanne and her struggles with her parents. But Jeanne has a particularly hard time of it as her parents are on the run from the law and she never settles anywhere or forms relationships.

During a stay in Portugal, she meets Heinrich, a surfer, and falls for him. As her parents drag her away, she becomes increasingly disenchanted with their nomadic lifestyle and makes a series of decisions that lead to disaster.

While I enjoyed the film, I left the cinema bemused by the ending and feeling curiously detached. I realised that what was missing for me was context: why are the parents on the run? What have they done? How do they feel about it?

Although the story is told from Jeanne's point of view, surely she would have some knowledge of what happened to put her family in its precarious position. There is a scene in which she confronts her parents: "after 15 years you want to take it back!" And they are chastened by the knowledge that their actions have caused heartache for their daughter. But that is as much insight as the audience ever gets into their world. To paraphrase Marianne Faithfull: "what are they fighting for?"

The ending is also problematic as the family is confronted by some form of authority and forced off the road. Do they die? Are they arrested? Who knows? Writer/director Petzold is clearly not interested in tying things up neatly but leaves it hanging. Sometimes this is effective but I was left feeling he wasn't sure how to end the film.

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