Night on the town: Leni and Anton go their separate ways on an all-night tour of society's dark recesses.
aka Abendland
dir-scr Fred Kelemen
with Wolfgang Michael, Verena Jasch, Isa Hochgerner, Adolfo Assor, Thomas Baumann, Urs Remond
99/Germany 3½ out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
When choosing a film to see on a weekend, it's not terribly likely that you'll opt for a two-and-a-half-hour dark German drama. But you could do worse. This artful examination of loneliness, crime and poverty is stunningly well-produced, capturing the textures and rhythms of a night on the streets.

Anton (Michael) is unemployed and at the end of his rope--even the local thug/drug dealer (Baumann) won't hire him! And after he's a victim of a petty, pointless crime, he and his girlfriend Leni (Jasch) have a falling out and go their separate ways into the night, roaming the streets in search of something to hang onto. Anton befriends a bellmaker (Assor) who is distraught over the disappearance of his small daughter. While Leni meets a stone-faced blonde hooker (Hochgerner) who takes her on a tour of the underworld.

The film is virtually wordless (in fact, Anton never says a thing), and Keleman constructs it like a symphony with extremely long takes, unhurried camera movement and an eclectic soundtrack. Visually, the grainy, dimly coloured imagery looks like a cautiously evolving painting. And it all happens so slowly that you almost feel like you've been drugged! Every frame, every scene, every facial expression is perfectly orchestrated with a grim, sometimes horrific beauty. Yet while it effectively captures feelings of helplessness and aimlessness, none of the characters are remotely sympathetic. You find it hard to really feel for people who just can't express their feelings or reach out to the people around them for help. They're basically wallowing in a hell they created for themselves. Stunning filmmaking ... but strictly for cinéastes.

[18--adult themes and situations, language, violence, drugs] 2.Mar.00
UK release 29.Sep.00

Winner: Best Film (Gijon Film Fest 99), Critics Award (Thessaloniki Film Fest 99)

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© 2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall