Monday, January 09, 2012

Das Fraulein (2006)

Das Fraulein is a Swiss production about Slavic émigrés living in Zurich.  It is a simple and yet touching potrait of  immigrants living in a culture not their own.

The film concentrates on three women.  Mirjana Karanovic is Ruza, a Slavic émigré in her fifties, who years ago transplanted herself from her native Serbia to Zurich Switzerland over 30 years ago.  She runs a canteen in the city and she trusts no one.  She lives a life of loneliness, and isolation.   She and her Croatian associate, Mila (Ljubica Jovic) are confronted with the arrival of Ana (Marija Skaricic), a much younger Bosnian drifter, who enchants Ruza with her fresh spontaneity and zest for life.  It is between these three women that the movie focuses on.  The film is about barriers breaking down, and how through the interaction of others we change.

Writer/director Andrea Staka's Das Fräulein paints an exceptionally sensitive, multi layered, and richly textured portrait of a blossoming friendship between three women.    Staka uses the film to explore their relationships to each other and themselves. She (Staka) conveys the women's inner emotions of the characters very intelligently using close-ups, and stark imagery.  The feel of the film is very important and it conveys the loneliness, and the mundane of life.  The film looks as though it were shot with florescent lighting, yet I 'm sure the filmmaker wanted the look she got.  It works here and enhances the films emotional response.

The film is lensed with special attention to characterization and tone.  This makes the film very viewable, and interesting.    From Ruza's overly efficient life to Ana's carefree existence Staka does a neat balancing act in showing how the characters affect each other.  When Ana thows Ruza a surprise birthday party we can see the walls slowly crumbling in Ruza whose emotions are distant and cold.  I enjoyed the films use of characters.  I was interested in all three women.  All from the same area that once was Yugoslavia yet all of different age and mind set.

Mirjana Karanovic as Ruza does an excellent job showing how much hurt she feels behind that cold exterior.  It is only when Ana begins to tell Ruza of her own plight that we see that change happening.  Marija Skaricic as Ana really nails it as the care free women who hides the inner scars of war.  In her performance we see a slow realization that life is too short and one should enjoy what life offers and let other people in instead of keeping them away. 

The film is a quiet one.  It is a character piece where the performances are very good.  The director doesn't hit you over the head with lots of dialogue, or phony film making tricks to illicit emotion.  Instead she lets the actors do their thing, and through the films tone we feel what we feel.  Staka's trusting collaboration with director of photography. Igor Martinovic results in a handsome, carefully constructed visual style which adds depth to the film.

The film is worth seeing and is a pretty good character film.  The film is sub-titled, and the characters speak Serbian, and German.  The film is worth seeing if you want to see strong performances and good quality film making.

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