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|„The magic of "The Longing" is more in the smaller
details than the larger canvas, whose plain, austere surfaces recall late
helmers like R.W. Fassbinder. Surprise winner of the Locarno fest's Golden
Leopard amply confirms U.K.-born, German-based Iain Dilthey as a special
talent, following his short feature, "I'll Wait on You Hand and Foot"
Shot in sequence, with often lengthy takes, well-cast film has none of the semi-improvisatory, semi-docu looseness of the 64-minute "Wait." Only the characters are similar -- basically lonely people in search of a suitable medium (family, lover) through which to express their hidden tenderness.
First act draws the slow, repetitive rhythms of Lena's life with an exactitude that would be tedious if not for many small touches. As in "Wait," but here in a more stylized way, Dilthey shows a talent for drawing characters whose words don't always match their faces, and vice versa. Lena's actions may be those of a pastor's dutiful wife, but her eyes burn with a greater ambition and -- when she meets the right man -- love. In one marvelous scene, shot in a single take on a forest path, she morphs from shy wife to spirited lover, temporarily overwhelming Paul's tentative emotions.
More concretely, Dilthey often adds a small physical detail to a scene to give it some tension beneath the often bland dialogue: a perilously full bowl of soup, a coffee cup poised on the edge of a car. And on a broader level, the script device of having the village anxious over a series of local murders gives an unsettling feel to the otherwise pedestrian story.
A legit actress-director here making her screen debut, Wrage is superb, making Lena neither too dowdy nor too pretty and expressing her metamorphosis largely through facial reactions. In Wrage's strong and also enchanting perf, Lena is neither victim nor angel: At every stage, she appears a woman driven by her own desires. All other cast are fine, with east German thesp Manfred Kranich, who's worked on most of Dilthey's pics, particularly memorable as a cop who knows more than he lets on.
Blowup from 16mm looks sharp and clear on the bigscreen, with autumnal colors; other tech credits are pro."
Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 7, 2002. Running time: 90 MIN.
VARIETY, Derek Elley, Posted: Tue., Aug. 13, 2002
The winner of this year's Golden Leopard in Locarno, The Longing (Das Verlangen), a low-budget film school graduate work by the Scottish-born, German-bred director Iain Dilthey, presents a redoubtable marketing challenge. With its sombre subject and heavy debt to traditional European art cinema, in particular Fassbinder, Bergman and Dreyer, this is rigorous, uncompromising fare that today looks perversely uncommercial. Its small but doubtless appreciative audience will be confined to ardent cinephiles, but daring specialist distributors may want to throw in their lot with an extremely promising new talent at the start of his career.
Das Verlangen wears its cinematic influences a little over-visibly. The Fassbinder touch also shows in Dilthey's preference for medium close shots and characters framed in windows or doorways, as well as in the timbre of the language and performances. Another reference point is Dreyer's Day Of Wrath (1943), whose lead actress bears a strong resemblance to Wrage and which is also about a pastor's wife embroiled in a taboo love affair.
However, there is also plenty of evidence here that Dilthey has a highly distinctive vision which should develop and mature in future work. Above all, the film is a superbly controlled technical accomplishment on all levels. An economical script tells the story with precision framing, effective use of colour, minimal camera movements and almost wordless scenes.
Meanwhile Justus Pankau, a cameraman with 50 years' experience, ensures that the 16mm to 35mm transfer always looks great. Performances are stylised but striking across the board, with Wrage radiating a fierce wordless intensity that commands the screen throughout.
Screen International Daily, Sheila Johnston, 13 August 2002