7 June 2013 | dbogosian-1
Touching, heartfelt, and beautifully acted
Happened to catch this on a plane ride, and I'm so glad I did.
This is a small, simple movie about a boy, Kari, born with a cleft lip and his life of trying to deal with this defect and achieve happiness in spite of it. We are given the story in little bits, not in chronological order, but after a while one starts to piece things together readily enough. We see him at birth, as a young boy, as a 20-something year old young man, and then again as a mature older man. The main story revolved around his attempts to court a beautiful young girl who takes an interest in him, but her family of course is not quite as accepting of his defects and simple upbringing.
The story is set around the late 1800s in Switzerland, and is presented in German. The individual vignettes of life in the rural and then urban settings are quite charming, though not always pleasant or pretty.
But the strength of this movie is in its story and the three lead actors who do a fantastic job portraying the two main characters (because we see Kari as both a young man and an older man). It's a story about someone who tries to overcome the bad hand that fate has dealt him, is not entirely successful, and yet in later years can look back on that episode with mingled bittersweet feelings, without anger towards his fellow human beings but as a very well-adjusted person who is dearly loved by his circle of intimates. We can read all their internal emotions in their facial expressions, glances, etc.
A small but I think important subplot was the relationship between Kari and his mother, who nursed him to health as an infant and loved him dearly, a love reciprocated by Kari. We see how this first relationship set the stage for his later attempts to find love as a mature young man.
It's a typically anti-Hollywood movie: with depth, sensitivity, creativity, and a strong sense of historical verisimilitude, all artfully and skillfully shot and on a minimal budget. If you can live with subtitles, this is a very rewarding movie to watch. Even better if you have a bit of an ear for German dialects, as the peculiarities of Swiss German come across repeatedly and are quite entertaining. Some may find the story line a bit predictable, but the artistic way in which we are told the story--part in flashback, part in real time, not in a direct linear fashion--more than makes up for that.