Christian Petzoid's thriller, Jerichow, is an updated film noir story of The Postman Always Rings Twice (Tay Garnett, 1946).
Petzoid has become one of the most influential film-makers of contemporary German cinema. He is now a senior member of the Berlin School, producing thoughtful, low-key, independent films. The Berlin School has the reputation of being radically leftist and strongly focused on content.
After the reunification of Germany there was a westward migration, which resulted in a collapse of East German industry, creating a plethora of ghost towns. The city of Jerichow is one of these. This landscape, enhanced by Hans Fromm's elegant cinematography, forms a strong link to Garnett's earlier film.
Petzoid, who also wrote the script, has created the James M Cain-style noir with its classic triangle of characters, but with some noticeable differences.
Ali (Hilmi Sozer), the husband, is a Turkish emigre who owns a chain of roadside snack shops.
He is shrewd, his business is thriving, but he is suspicious of everyone, both of his wife cheating on him and his employees stealing from him.
In spite of his wealth, he has never overcome the feeling that he is an outsider in his adopted country.
His money has created a spiritual emptiness in him, and that often causes people to do desperate things in their search for happiness.
Laura (Nina Hoss) is Ali's wife.
Ali virtually bought her by paying off her substantial debts, and in return she agreed to stay with him forever.
Thomas (Benno Furmann) is the loner who becomes the lover. After being dishonourably discharged from the army he has returned home from the Afghan- Soviet conflict. When he meets Ali he has run out of money. Ali offers Thomas a job as a driver and also to help with managing his 45 snack bars.
When Thomas meets Laura the attraction is electrifying. It isn't long before lust takes over.
However, the director is not interested in doomed love, nor is he impressed by sexual passion, and Hoss is not the stereotypical femme fatale. Petzoid sees Garnett's Postman as the American class-struggle movie, and he likes the idea that American cinema often deals with politics on the micro level.
Jerichow is a well written, well acted, and well crafted film.
- Jerichow, Christian Petzoid, Germany, 2008, 94 minutes, 35mm, English sub-titles, State Cinema, Nelson Film Society, tomorrow, 6pm. Supported by the Goethe Institute. Public welcome.
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