16 December 2003 | hypersquared
A great, human film.
You know you're in for a ride with this picture from the opening moments. Roehler drops us smack in the middle of a blowout argument between a young couple whose sex life is on the skids. The fight is at that fever pitch where the woman is crying almost convulsively, and where each of them is beginning to lose their grip on saying sensible things and are on the verge of cheap shots and unhelpful attempts at humor. The scene is tangible and familiar to anyone who's ever grappled with a fraying relationship, and, with a shocking abruptness, we're immediately in the reality of Robert and Marie.
For 95 minutes that reality never wanes, and in fact expands to involve Robert's deathly ill father and Marie's previous attempts at suicide. There are a lot of movies about messed-up middle class couples. What makes "Angst" special is that, as messed-up as they are, Robert and Marie's reality is not uniformly bleak. There are moments of delirious joy between them, and we have to take them at their word that these are moments that only occur when they are with each other. And like any of us, they have to figure out if they can live with the devil's bargain: take the joy, and deal with the enormous fears that come with it.
Marie Baeumer's a complex and deeply honest performance. She has what Martin Scorsese calls the ability to wage full wars on her face (although he was talking about classic, male movie stars when he said it). Her slightest expression shows the depth of both her affection and her contempt for Robert. For his part, Andre Hennicke plays Robert brilliantly. He's as panicked over his own impulsive behavior as he is lovestruck for Marie.
In the Q&A at the AFI Fest, Roehler described his shooting process as being more theatrical than cinematic, which would go some length in explaining how he got such fantastic work from his actors, but he doesn't give himself enough credit. He has a magnificent cinematic sense, one that had me thinking of Kieslowski and Tarkovsky throughout (and not just because of a blatant reference to "Solaris"). It is one of the most psychologically intelligent films I've seen in a good long time, but it's also just a damn good movie.
One which, by the way does not have an American distributor, which is a goddamned crime! Of course, the suits are probably terrified by the level of nudity, both male and female, in the picture, and a few very graphic sexual moments. There's no question it's an NC-17 picture, but it would also get killer reviews and do serious art house business. The fact that a film like this has any trouble at all finding distribution in this country is all the evidence needed to indicate how culturally ass-backwards we have become.