'Dinky Sinky': Munich Review
German director Mareille Klein's feature debut won best screenplay and the Fipresci prize at the recent Munich Film Festival.
A woman’s desire to have a child trumps all in the German comedy-drama Dinky Sinky, from rookie feature director Mareille Klein. This best screenplay and Fipresci award winner at the recent Munich Film Festival impresses with its humanity and lightness of touch while exploring thorny and complex issues surrounding women’s desire for children in the 21st century, when a boyfriend might run in the opposite direction but — at least theoretically — there are other options out there for all the single ladies. Lead actress Katrin Roever delivers a finely chiseled performance that lets audiences understand her character’s needs, drive and embarrassment without ever becoming cutesy or too easily lovable — a delicate but always credible balance that perhaps reveals the director’s background in the documentary field. Festivals focused on women and women directors will eat this up but if there is any justice in this world, this will be screened much more widely.
Frida (Roever) and her boyfriend, Tobias (Till Firit), are first seen in the bathroom, where a very wet variation on musical chairs is the result of Frida hopping out of the shower when Tobias gets in, hoping for a quickie before they’re out the door, only to have Frida hop back in again when she realizes she’s ovulating so now would be the perfect time to have sex, probable tardiness be damned. It’s a funny and memorable opening scene that immediately reveals what Klein does best: light, domestic comedy that stems from who her characters are and what they want out of life.
It’s not long before Tobias starts to be worn out by Frida’s insistence on trying to get pregnant, and when she proposes in what’s surely one of German cinema’s most awkward proposal scene, he has a hard time saying yes. Perhaps it’s for the better that he doesn’t, since viewers are already aware she’s probably only proposing mainly because her doctor has told her fertility treatments are only paid for by social security for married couples. And, just maybe, because she needs a guy to get a baby.
The bulk of Dinky Sinky explores what happens after Tobias decides to leave Frida — who looks like the Teutonic cousin of Kristin Wiig, comedic timing very much included — but Frida’s desire to become a mommy only intensifies as a result. With the story set in summery Munich, the protagonist here takes on the seriocomic trappings of a Bavarian Bridget Jones, with all her worries about herself, her life, her desires and the men she might or might not need or want. There’s one big difference, however, as Frida is just as recognizably insecure as Bridget but she's not slightly overweight but actually very much in shape physically. This has to be with her job as a PE teacher in a high school, where she is constantly confronted with — and this is a very continental European touch — the fertility cycles of her female students, who regularly sit out her lessons because it’s that time of the month again.
With a constant eye for details such as these, the world Klein creates for her protagonist is one that’s at once recognizable and filled with elements that are either a source of comedy and/or contribute to Frida’s growing sense of unease and frustration about her inability to procreate and become a mother. The supporting characters all contribute to the film's increasingly layered portrait of Frida as well and they include the protagonist’s not very supportive mother, who has started dating a new man with an ease that seems to make Frida secretly jealous and envious; a group of her peers, all in relationships and some with children, and even Tobias, who unexpectedly turns up at a group visit to a potential new apartment and again at a dinner party with friends they have in common, with a new girlfriend in tow. No wonder Frida might soon explode.
With the notable exception of composer Johannes Stankowski, the director, a Cologne-born graduate of the Munich Film School, has surrounded herself with a largely female crew. Editor Mechthild Barth is responsible for the film’s fluid rhythms and tricky balance between comedy and drama, while cinematographer Laura Kansy captures everything in equally fluid shots that frequently privilege character and comedy over purely compositional concerns, lending the proceedings an agreeably loose-limbed lightness that belies the seriousness of its subject.
(Full disclosure: This critic was on the Fipresci jury in Munich that awarded this film.)
Venue: Munich Film Festival
Production companies: Nordpolaris, Luethje Schneider Hoerl, Bayerischer Rundfunk
Cast: Katrin Roever, Till Firit, Ulrike Willenbacher, Michael Wittenborn, Katharina Hauter
Writer-director: Mareille Klein
Producers: Florian Kamhuber, Fabian Halbig, Florian Schneider, Maren Luethje, Andreas Hoerl
Director of photography: Laura Kansy
Production designer: Ewa Marta
Costume designer: Regine Waeckerle
Editor: Mechthild Barth
Music: Johannes Stankowski
Casting: Franziska Aigner
Not rated, 94 minutes