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  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Abgebrannt" is a German movie from 2011, so this one will have its 10th anniversary next year. The story here early on does not only take place in my country and city, but even in the exact district I live in, but honestly it never made an impact on me from that perspective in terms of the location. It could have been set in every other poorer district of a city as well, maybe even town, and it would not have made a difference. This is what I found a bit disappointing from my personal and subjective perspctive. Now back to what general audiences here will probably care more about: It runs for approximately 100 minutes and it was a theatrical release originally. This is perhaps slightly surprising because really everything else in writer and director Verena S. Freytag's body of work is stuff that was produced for the small screen. This includes the likes of GZSZ, Alisa, Herzflimmern, In aller Freundschaft and most recently Lindenstraße and if you know only a little bit about German television, then you will also know that all these projects (and also others she worked on) are not good quality. This is entertainment for the really easily influenced, for genuinely simple people, who believe everything you give them. So taking the writer and director into account here and the fact that pretty much her entire body of work lacks creativity, the outcome of this film, even if I only give it 2 stars out of 5, is still bettet than expected. It is still pretty shoddy and that includes the most basic inclusions here. First of all, the title is a mess. It does not matter if we are talking about the German title, which means "out of money", or about the international title "Burnout", neither is true when it comes to the protagonist. No clue what they were thinking. Just pick a somewhat baity title and who cares if it does not have anything really to do with the main character. Then again, the simple people in the audience did not even reccognize I suppose. Also the international title makes me genuinely wonder if somebody here did not know the difference between "Abgebrannt" and "Ausgebrannt". Truly pathetic. No clue how something like this could happen.

    Now, so much for the basics. Now let's dive a little deeper into this overall project. The lead actress is Iranian Maryam Zaree. She is alright, not great, but here and there she manages to elevate the not so good material for sure. Probably also helps that I think she is really attractive and her character is also fairly desirable with how wild she is and also with her tattoos. The rest of the cast are not too known. Admittedly, neither is Zaree really. I mean it's alright. If you deliver in other production areas, then you don't need a cast that consists of big name actors. But they did not here. The script is the best example really. The best thing you could say is that it is just mostly uninteresting because they went for realism and in real life, it's also more of a slow river where it's not the cast that something constantly happens. But if you take a closer look, then you will see that it is not even true.. Freytag was going for severe drama. There are many examples. Take the death treat from the main antagonist that he sends her via SMS. Take that gigantic amount of drugs. Take the fact that the protagonist is about to start a sexual relationship with the son of one of her mentors. Take the moment when we could think that the new best friend is perhaps dead as she lies there and does not react, especially after the protagonist sends out her friend's daughter. And of course take the escalation scene with the violent boyfriend towwards the end that could result in a miscarriage. Or just take the fact that she is pregnant again. There is a lot drama that goes beyond ordinary life in here, but that does not make it interesting or worth seeing. It all feels for the sake of it. Just like the sex scene. Actually, I preferred these calm, relatively normal moments with the relationship between the two women getting closer (only as friends obviously). Or the children being always around. They did not even have to do anything really to make an impact. It just feels realistic. Also how she is still in full rebel mode early on with the mobile phone during the first group therapy session. These are the moments when the film delivers. However, every time Freytag tried to make this a more relevent film and increase the dramatic pace, it went wrong. Probably, no most likely, because she does not have the writing talent for that. The consequence is that, despite some moments, I give this film a thumbs-down. I would say it got worse in the second half too. The first half is still a close call between tolerable and weak, but the second half makes it easy for me to decide the latter is the case if we take a look at the entire project. Still I would like to end the review on a positive note and say that the abrupt ending was working better than expected and also there are some nice music choices in here. Still I say best is if you skip the watch and check out something else instead, even if the movie is not a failure by any means, mostly thanks to the lead performance I guess and occasional (but not frequent enough) glimpses of quality in the screenplay.
  • anthonydavis2623 September 2011
    Warning: Spoilers
    This review was made after a screening at Cambridge Film Festival (UK) - 15 to 25 September 2011 * Contains spoilers * To-night's screening was attended by director Verena S. Freytag, and she spoke to the Festival's own Verena afterwards, answering questions from the audience (which is a true privilege for a viewer).

    Mine elicited that she had not intended to have a music soundtrack, but, having met a violinist (he plays other instruments) three times by chance in Berlin, and then learned about his work, he composed for the finished edit. (I felt that the score worked very well with the emotion of the changing scenes, adopting at least twice the simple motif of a quiet sustained note that abruptly heralded silence: the song whose lyrics I had thought to have been always central had not been.) I also gathered that the film had been edited from around 180 minutes to 102, with the result, Verena said, that the complexion of what happened after the initial location in Berlin had changed much.

    As the other Verena commented, Maryam Zaree's performance as a hard-pressed mother (Pelin) was very strong, and I found that Tilla Kratochwil's Christa, for all that she seemed dominating and hidebound, gave her real scope for being near someone with different experiences and for them to learn from each other.

    However, I am not quite sure that the trajectory of Pelin's story is really as set out in the Festival brochure (and I do not know where in life she may be heading at the close), but she certainly desires to change her position, if she can be allowed to do so - that is one of the very heartening things about this film, that we are shown her being given a chance, and also that healing and forgiveness can take place. Alongside those things, we also witness self-interest being a motivating force, and the fact that trying to shake off past ties brings new problems.

    Thinking about the issues that lead to the family's seaside placement made me wonder whether the story could have fitted in the UK. The concerns portrayed would certainly have brought the same attention to bear on Pelin's behaviour as a mother, and she might, if very lucky, have had a social worker who was prepared to work with her to make things better for her children on the basis of a profession, and evidence, of a willingness to change. Even some sort of respite is sometimes possible (but maybe not so easily on the coast, because of funding), so this is not a scenario unique to Germany and not, say, Cambridge, but perhaps what it would miss is the tendency to a specially German propriety about how life should be conducted.

    That, however, is not what I shall take from this film: Maryam's expressiveness (and the fatigue with which she battles), her care, however wayward, for her children, her interactions with Chista, and her sheer exuberance when she breaks the rules and goes out dancing - oh, and her utter convincingness as someone who tattoes ('inks') others and believes in herself and in that sort of statement.