Sunday, March 25, 2012

Die Muse

There were several adventures in viewing this film; the first was an audio issue with the computer (which resulted in my watching it all the way through with no audio the first time, which is quite an educational experience if you ever want to try this with something subtitled), the second involved the disk and a pile of bills along with it winding up in the family butter plate, on top of the butter . . . but everything worked out in the end, I got to see it a second time with audio, and finally, I can write about it. 

Die Muse, 2011. Directed by Christian Genzel
starring: Thomas Limpinsel, Henriette Muller, Jean-Luc Julien.

"A young woman awakes in a cell in a basement. A man introduces himself to her: He is a writer and needs her as an inspiration for his new book. He forcibly tries to convince her to stay and help him. A cruel power game develops between the two of them." (IMDB).

People love stories about writers. Writers love stories about writers, especially when the subject hovers near sociopathy, probably because all writers are a little crazy to begin with. The writer in this film, Fischer (Limpinsel), is from the very first moment a dark and intriguing character, but as time passes and we get to know him, we find that his writing almost becomes secondary to what he must do to inspire it.

"You are an important part of my work."
After what seems like an obsessive amount of methodical planning, Fischer kidnaps Katja, a young woman he's convinced will be instrumental as a muse for his latest novel. Once in captivity inside a specially-crafted room just off the writing studio, she asks again and again to be let go, but Fischer refuses, explaining that his wish is for her to decide to stay voluntarily, to help him make his work extraordinary. He doesn't hurt her, exactly, he feeds her and gives her privacy to use the toilet, but as their time together progresses and details about him pop out, Katja realizes that beneath Fischer's calm exterior, something very unnerving lurks.

Despite the desperation of the characters, and the disturbing aspects of the narrative, Genzel's camera, whether static or in motion, is always in control. Without drawing attention away from the onscreen events, the images together with the music were very enjoyable. This sort of conflict (unfortunate situations that are beautifully filmed and scored) really makes the film, and reaches its high point during what ends up being one of the darkest collection of scenes within it, where Katja's position as a victim takes on a whole new meaning.

"This hurts me as much as it hurts you, Katja."
For each disturbing aspect that is introduced, careful attention is given to allude to it tastefully and subtly before it actually happens, which is crucial in weaving (or unweaving) a story whose events are mostly unpleasant and in ensuring that things are adequately shocking but not confusing or random. Certain mentions of drugs, early on. Fischer's disclosure of how critics summarized his previous books. The position of his chair related to Katja's holding cell, and so on. I don't pretend (even now, after two viewings) to understand everything about Fischer or all of his motivations, but I will say it was delightful getting little answers or bits of insight here and there, which is also to say I'm content in keeping him at a relative distance, all things considered (!) There was also the tiniest bit of identification that came with watching Fischer---I'm obviously not advocating kidnapping or uh, all that other stuff, but all writers have their obsessions, and I think a lot of the non-writing public would genuinely be shocked if we all honestly admitted what goes on inside our minds. To see it captured in a film (albeit darkly) was oddly understandable. And horrifying.

Look for many more good things in the future from Christian Genzel; I know I certainly will.