Long Shadows

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Rome Film Festival

ROME -- Narrated as a psychological thriller, “Long Shadows” is a stylish, sporadically tense reflection on the legacy of terrorism and its effect on subsequent generations. The terrorists here are aging members of Germany’s Baader Meinhof gang, a.k.a. Red Army Fraction, and the 20-odd years that have passed since their actions give director Connie Walther some perspective.

Unlike Uli Edel’s “The Baader Meinhof Complex,” which also screened in the Rome Film Festival, the current film is not directly concerned with the politics of terrorism but rather with the social dimension. In this light Walther strikes the right balance between pity for the innocent victims and their now-toothless executioners, offering food for thought about how violence has a tendency to perpetuate itself from generation to generation, long after the original shots have been fired.

The difficulty is that the story-telling, trying to be sophisticated, often ends up garbled. Many of the early scenes come off as puzzling-to-senseless and awkward plot points continue up to the end. Film’s other problem is that the whole subject of the RAF will mean little or nothing to audiences outside Germany, leaving it with narrow release prospects beyond its home turf and the fest circuit.

On the plus side is the edgy acting of the two excellent leads, young Franziska Petri as Valerie, a single mother whose hidden violence has lost her custody of her son, and Ulrich Noethen as the crusty terrorist Saul, who is released from prison after 22 years and moves next door to her.

Both characters are deeply drawn and rather fascinating to watch interacting. Walther, who has moments of very strong directing, lets them run with the oft-times stilted dialogue and build their characters through physicality and gestures.

Saul is having a rough time re-adjusting to society, and Valerie seems to be his only support. Gradually it becomes clear that she’s hiding some important secrets about her own past. Unfortunately, these come out in a series of improbable revelation scenes between her policeman-lover and Saul’s female lawyer, who also seem to have been romantically entangled in the past. In the end, film becomes a tussle between strong performances and untidy scripting.

Strong in smaller roles are Christoph Bach as Saul’s adult son, who has never really grown up, and Eva Mattes as Saul’s former partner, who has testified against him. Film’s striking look is owed to bold cinematography nearly drained of color by Birgit Gudjonsdottir.

Production company: NextFilm Filmproduktion, Gambit Film- und Fernsehproduktion.
Cast: Franziska Petri, Ulrich Noethen, Uwe Kockisch, Tatja Seibt, Christoph Bach, Mehdi Nebbou, Rino Zepf, Eva Mattes.
Director: Connie Walther.
Screenwriters: Uli Herrmann, Peter Jurgen Boock, Connie Walther.
Producers: Clementina Hegewisch, Michael Jungfleisch.
Director of photography: Birgit Gudjonsdottir.
Production designer: Agi Dawaachu.
Music: Rainer Oleak.
Costumes: Juliane Friedrich.
Editor: Karen Lonneker.
Sales Agent: Sola Media, Stuttgart.
No rating, 95 minutes.

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