Thursday, November 21, 2013

Das Lied in mir

The pool is her cocoon. Her shell, from which she wants to emerge but does not know how. In a world of achievement and gray, black and white, she is trapped. And blue. And then she discovers she has dual identities. She has another country, another family, another life. She has the rich noises and colours of Latin America in her blood. She can be part of the spontaneity; she doesn't need to be confined within the world of Danke and Bitte anymore.

Beautifully shot, the greatest praise for Florian Cossen's debut feature (it is hard to believe that this is a debut!) is that he makes you want to live Buenos Aires, makes you want to go there. He combines the good elements of European cinema with the warmth of Latin America, and the mixture becomes potent when coupled with a stunning performance by the main protagonist Jessica Schwarz (as Maria) and meaningful editing. No one is given to histrionics; if Hollywood were to make this film, people would be throwing and smashing things, there would be too much bitterness and anger, and people would now and then scream or try to evoke pity, or something. Schwarz doesn't do anything of the sort: her low-key performance is the soul of the film. The colour scheme of the film throughout is a marvel to watch, feel and understand: to take an example, the sterile shots of the airport washroom are further enhanced by Maria's white shirt at the beginning of the film.

The movie is much beyond Maria's story: it is also about the clash of cultures as different as German/North European and Latin American. Even before Maria stumbles upon the secret, she feels drawn to the streets, to the chaos, to the cityscape: of course, her mind is active because she has already heard the song, but now that song is ready to burst from her. Not just the song whose words she knows but the meaning she doesn't, but also the song of her soul, the song of her persona - the song whose meaning she knows but not the words - which can now flower, in benign, suitable conditions. The film, whose title means The Song in Me (but strangely given the int'l title of The Day I Was Not Born), is the celebration of that song: of every human song that is ready even if hidden, that must not be strangled as Anton tries to do.

Anton's crime is not that he and his wife stole Maria; not just that he keeps on lying; not in his insecurity of losing Maria. His crime is he denied Maria the world where the song in me could be heard. That is why it will be difficult for Maria to ever forgive Anton. Until Anton learns the song.