Geek Film Review Vol. 2 No. 5: “Nachthelle” (Bright Night)

A look back in the life inside East Germany, a homecoming, and a reckoning with a past long forgotten.

Production company: Almost Famous Film- und Medienproduktion
Cast: Anna Grisebach, Benno Furmann, Vladimir Burlakov, Kai Ivo Baulitz, Gudrun Ritter, Michael Gwisdek
Director: Florian Gottschick

Geek Rate: Mortaly worthy (3 out of 5 stars)

Films competing in the Golden Bears generally are great works in cinema but Nachthelle (Bright Night), despite taking home an acting award, did not live up to the level expected by the audience.

Anna (Anna Grisebach), around 40, and her much younger boy toy, Stefan (Vladimir Burlakov), have come to the former’s quaint childhood home, tucked away in a lush, green forest in former East Germany. An old friend of Anna’s, Bernd (Benno Fuehrmann), is already at the cottage with his boyfriend of many years, Marc (Kai Ivo Baulitz). The two couples take a weekend break together at an idyllic country cottage. However, old sexual tensions and long buried grudges soon bubble to the surface.

At first, the film is full of promise. In the story, Anna comes back to her hometown which was once a part of East Germany and the premise is that she will need to confront her past and all the memories with it which she wanted to forget. The details of Anna and Marc’s past in that faraway town was at first captivating, and the tension between them, including the build-up, kept me glued on the screen.

The sexual tension was also well-executed but not even halfway through the film it gets confusing leading to Anna’s dreams. The dreams aimed to reveal the twist in the story but it was not expanded well into the story. The gradual reveal of all of the meaning behind her dreams led not to clarity but to more questions and confusion. The psychological debates between the characters are cool though, engaging the audience on the merits of each of the characters stands on issues relating to it.

Time was front and center in the story but it was not successfully utilized, and the vagueness of the narrative is really disappointing. The moment when Anna seemingly went back in time was supposed to be an important part of the film but with all intense and purposes, it fails to elevate the depth of its story. It made it more confusing. The connection between past and present was not clearly conveyed.

The bright spot in this film is the superb performance of the actors who despite the vagueness of their backstories, have managed to portray their characters in a way that somehow elevates the film.

ares-512Geek Rate: Mortal Worthy (3 out of 5 stars). The filmmakers could argue that it takes a great deal of thinking to get what they were trying to convey in this movie, but the truth is they just failed to properly convey the very idea of their story. The audience, in general, is not stupid, and if they were confused about the ending of the movie, there’s certainly something wrong with it. But despite all the confusion, there’s depth in this film if only one would dig deeper.

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