'Translantics': Film Review

Courtesy of Britta Thie
An uneasy blend of soul-searching and satire.

Digital artist Britta Thie steps into narrative fiction.

A coterie of young, world-citizen Berliners make the art-world scene in Translantics, Britta Thie's navel-gaze-y look at twentysomething nostalgia for that brief time before her cohort had the web and social media guiding their still-developing brains. Less alienating than it originally seems but still underdeveloped, the picture (broken into six chapters that debuted as a web serial) will likely strike a chord with young culture/entrepreneurial elites — at least those who aren't so successful or happy they've left this kind of ambivalence behind.

Older viewers will need to struggle past the title sequence, a deeply off-putting collage of such dumb non-sequiturs as "B&B or not to be?" delivered direct-to-camera with icy hauteur. Then bear with an opening scene that has lead character BB (Thie, playing herself) staring with religious awe at the resolution of a big-box store's TVs; things will get more recognizably human soon.

Soon, BB and two girlfriends are road-tripping to a ceremony for "the First European Art Award," where BB is one of three people vying for the prize. If the phrase "fashion model and digital artist" makes you wary, Translantics won't sell you on the merits of Thie's work; in fact, none of the artists here show enough of their creations for us to judge them. Bits of dialogue — "your TED talk on cloud-based government was amazing!" — substitute for evidence of accomplishment.

The movie's cast, seemingly composed entirely of non-actors who are good looking enough to crash the party, don't seem to know if they're making a comedy or not. When one asks a friend, "Are we hashtag going out to this party?" or another announces, "I'm going to the soft opening of this pop-up thing," many viewers will hope they're watching contemporary shallowness get skewered but not be sure.

Thie fares a bit better as the story begins to focus more on her character, who takes a trip home to wallow in childhood memories. The affected affectlessness of her voiceover may grate elsewhere, but here she has things to say. Lamenting the way her private childhood obsessions were co-opted into mainstream culture, she sighs, "if something turns into hype that once saved you, you feel like you're back on the Titanic again." Also perceptive, if in a limited way, is this medium/message observation: "A new iOS update in September becomes ... the atmosphere of my fall..."

The picture takes its most plot-driven detour in New York, where BB is hired for a modeling gig that (surprise) ends in a massive flake-out. She wanders the city, taking things in and searching for herself. She finds pancakes, dance parties and Fifth Avenue.

Venue: Migrating Forms, Brooklyn Academy of Music
Production company: Special Service Production
Cast: Britta Thie, Julia Zange, Annika Kuhlmann, Lily McMenamy
Directors: Britta Thie, Julia H. Burlingham
Screenwriter: Britta Thie
Producers: Stella Heath Keir
Director of photography: Kevin Klein
Editor: Andi Pek
Composer: Ville Haimala

In German and English

Not rated, 98 minutes

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