'Everyone Else'


This delicious, acutely observed dissection of the mercurial emotional and psychological ties between two young lovers comes to us from German director Maren Ade, whose first feature, "The Forest for the Trees," won a special jury award at Sundance in 2005. Some might find the pacing a little slow, but patient viewers will be rewarded amply by the truth of the details this talented director has amassed during the course of the film.

If handled correctly by a smaller, more hands-on distributor in the U.S., "Everyone Else" has modest commercial potential, and it should do even better on DVD and other ancillary venues when the word spreads. All festival programmers owe themselves a serious look.

Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr), a not-too-serious publicist for an unknown rock band, and Chris (Lars Eidinger), a brilliant architect who hasn't actually gotten anything built yet, seem ideally suited for each other. They romp joyfully in Chris' family's villa in Sardinia, and the tiny veracities of their life together demonstrate either that Ade is gifted with a hyper-fertile imagination or has lived these things herself. Gitti and Chris subsequently meet another couple, Hans and Sana, and the resulting complexities strain their already volatile relationship.

Everything in this film seems new but at the same time completely recognizable and completely right. During the first hour, Gitti and Chris play creatively, make love, have quarrels and make love some more. Gitti, at least at first, seems the more insecure of the two and is bothered that Chris never says "I love you" when they're having sex. The intensity of observation reminds one of Bergman's "Scenes From a Marriage," though of course played in a much more benign key. For the patient, the deliberate pacing is perfect as each additional layer is quietly and subtly put in place.

The second half of the film revolves around their interactions with Hans, a more successful architect than Chris, and Sana, an artist. Fifteen minutes easily could be trimmed from this section, yet it's precisely here that the film moves away from the investigation of the couple, per se, toward a barely visible yet trenchant critique of class.

Although they don't actually have much to show for it, Gitti and Chris — like the couple in the recent American film "Revolutionary Road," a much less subtle work — are convinced that they are special, that their good taste and apparently deep understanding of everything and everybody far exceeds that of "everyone else," including Hans and Sana.

At the very end of the film, Ade pushes her luck and feints in a direction that not every viewer is going to appreciate and one that will leave all the others scratching their heads. But she's so obviously gifted and so preternaturally observant that most of them will allow her the benefit of the doubt nevertheless. (partialdiff)