The key to understanding this film is in its title as the character Paul is unable to imagine a world that he is not the center of. He's a successful engineer and family man being groomed for political office. Clearly, he is used to having whatever he wants. This attitude transfers to his adulterous relationship with Adriana, a quietly inexpressive recent immigrant. In the beginning, she seems impressed with his easy confidence but as time goes on it becomes increasingly clear that she isn't interested in the role he wants her to play. Paul is so self- absorbed that he seems unable to conceive of this difference and he disregards her unhappiness with his lack of effort in knowing her as an individual as opposed to using her to fill his own needs.
The Middle of the World is a film that covers familiar territory; such unbalanced relationships often tend to appear in films. Usually, this would appear as a subplot in a film, though, rather than being the sole narrative. Tanner's focus on the relationship itself allows him to make his point especially clear. Also helpful is his style here, as he tends to place his two characters in unpopulated landscapes and deserted streets as a visual metaphor for the characters' conflicting mental states. Paul has so thoroughly internalized a self-centered worldview that the presence of other people is unimportant while Adriana feels isolated in a foreign land.
Strangely enough, The Middle of the World seems more visually accomplished than either of the two later Tanner films I've seen. Unlike Jonas Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 or A Flame in My Heart, The Middle of the World has a consistently developed aesthetic that greatly increases the effectiveness of its narrative. It also paints a harsh portrait of bourgeois self-absorption.
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