'All Good' (Alles ist Gut'): Film Review | Locarno 2018
The feature debut from Berlin-born director Eva Trobisch features a powerhouse performance from Aenne Schwarz ('Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe') as a woman struggling to make sense of the world after she's been raped.
A woman tries to repress what happened one intoxicated night when an inappropriate pass at her turned into rape in the ironically titled German drama All Good (Alles ist Gut).Though only East Berlin-born director Eva Trobisch’s feature debut, this is already a mature, fully realized film that is markedly better than the work of a lot of more seasoned directors at the recent Locarno fest, where it went home with the best first-feature honor. On home turf, at the Munich Film Festival, it walked away with the Fipresci critics’ prize as well as accolades for director and actress, boding well for its local release in October. While artfully restrained to the extent it almost borders on the austere, All Good should have some commercial potential in niche release, aided by the current spotlight on female directorial talent and stories, and sadly augmented by its topicality in the era of the #Metoo movement.
Janne (Aenne Schwarz) is a very recognizable human being in that she spends a lot of time projecting a version of herself to those around her that’s reassuring and calming (indeed, the title could be said to represent how she presents herself to others). But a lot of upsetting things are happening in her life. The small publishing house she ran with her loving boyfriend Piet (Andreas Doehler) went bankrupt and the couple is emptying their office when the film opens. Through a family connection, they’ve found an old house in the Bavarian countryside that they’ve decided to renovate, so they can get away from the rat race in the big city and the stench of failure from their closed business.
But then Janne runs into Robert (Tilo Nest), an editor at a major publishing house whose kids she used to babysit, and he tells her about a job opening at his company in Munich. At the same time, she meets Robert’s brother-in-law, Martin (Hans Loew), who is headed for the same school reunion as Janne that evening. While Robert suggests she would be great for the job, a very drunk Martin goes home with her that evening and won’t take no for answer. Unlike a lot of directors, Trobisch films the rape scene in a very detached way. This at once suggests that Janne tries to detach herself mentally from what’s happening and says something about the banality of evil in a situation like this. It is all over in a couple of minutes and there is no real physical struggle on Janne’s part, more a sort of intoxicated exhaustion that finally lowers her defenses, though she is quite clear verbally.
The banality of the moment is necessary because it is what plants a seed of doubt in Janne’s brain. Was it all that bad? Had she been really clear she didn’t want to sleep with Martin? Had they both “just” been drunk? It’s the kind of questioning that victims might use to downplay the earnestness of a traumatic event, so it becomes easier to digest and move on. This apparent banality is also reflected in the mise-en-scene and visuals, which are stripped down to the bare essentials, without any music that might turn this into a melodrama and with cinematographer Julian Krubasik opting for a drab color palette and a generally unfussy approach to his camerawork.
So this is what happens, essentially, for most of the film: Life goes on or at least everyone pretends that it does. Janne decides to take Robert up on his offer, which is perfect for her professionally but destabilizes her future with Piet in what should have been their new home. Because of Robert’s familial relationship with Martin, she also occasionally still runs into her rapist and one of the story’s more unusual elements is how it pays attention to his impossible situation as well. He has no idea how to behave around her either and at one point straightforwardly asks her what to do, which gets him the icy reply: “Bring me chocolate and otherwise do nothing,” an idea that’s repeated after a hospital detour that is perhaps a tad too predictable in terms of narrative twists but that has an outcome that is unexpected yet totally right.
While looking at only a small cast of characters, which also includes Robert’s younger wife, the writer-director offers a noirish vision of relationships where true equality between two people is impossible and everyone just yields whatever they have available, be it money, sex, power or their sarcasm (the film is occasionally darkly funny). As the story grows increasingly bleak, it feels not only increasingly depressing but also more miserably authentic.
As the title suggests, Trobisch is especially interested in appearances, so it is up to the audience to look beyond Janne’s surface behavior to figure out how she’s really doing. Actress Schwarz, who impressed in Austria’s 2017 Oscar submission, Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe, in which she plays Lotte Zweig, is equally fantastic here as a woman who wants to try so hard to pretend she’s fine, all the effort slowly starts to run her into the ground.
About the only thing the title can refer to without a trace of irony are Trobisch’s career prospects, which should be more than good.
Production companies: Trimafilm, Starhaus Filmproduktion
Cast: Aenne Schwarz, Andreas Doehler, Hans Loew, Tilo Nest, Lisa Hagmeister, Lina Wendel
Writer-director: Eva Trobisch
Producers: Trini Goetze, David Armati Lechner
Director of photography: Julian Krubasik
Production designer: Renate Schmaderer
Costume designer: Laura Fries, Carolin Schreck
Editor: Kai Minierski
Casting: Susanne Ritter
Venue: Locarno Film Festival (Filmmakers of the Present)
Sales: Films Boutique