I've had time to contemplate this one. Saw it on a night off from painting. (Venue: the Grand Illusion). Dan and I had the theater to ourselves, which was perfect because this is one that begs throwing out comments and asking questions in real time. When the movie begins, you learn a few things about the intriguing Yella: she has a stalker, she's accepted a job away from the home she shares with her dad in Eastern Germany and she takes a loan from her dad (which turns out to be his nest egg). These details set the stage for the fiasco that follows.
(Spoiler Alert: Read at Your Own Risk!)
Yella and her father portray a peculiar, almost sexual relationship. You only get a brief scene but the feeling lingers. The stalker turns out to be her estranged husband who is still hurting from her departure. While Yella makes terrible (almost unbelievable) decisions, I was entirely edge-of-my-seating it. I was rumbling to Dan: "She's nuts, why would she do that, NO WAY!" Dan had his own rumblings, but we were sucked in. The worse her decisions (accepting a ride from her stalker, taking a job offer from a shady business owner, trusting a different shady stranger defrauding people out of money, choosing to become the business partner of the second shyster and then falling for him), the more she tricked me into wanting to know more. What is at Yella's motivational core? Wait for it...can you guess...MONEY! That's the other part of this movie...it's brutally honest. Her decisions are money-based. (Yella, herself, wouldn't disagree.) People's relationships to money are as diverse as people themselves and this twists up this story.
The story sequence is in flashbacks and what seems like real-time. You spend a lot of time with Yella. Maybe that's why you feel like Christian Petzold has taken you on an enjoyable ride and then after a snap, he yanks you off, making you feel short-changed. Initially, I HATED the ending; seemed like a cheap way out. After discussing it more with Dan over Korean-style spicy squid, I came to dislike it less. Best to leave it there. The details are rich if you choose to pay attention to them, the clarity forms.
Themes: trust, economic issues, unhappy marriage, East Germany
Director: Christian Petzold