DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
YELLA (director/writer: Christian Petzold; cinematographer: Hans Fromm; editor: Bettina Böhler; music: Stefan Will; cast: Nina Hoss (Yella Fichte), Devid Striesow (Philipp), Hinnerk Schönemann (Ben), Christian Redl (Yella's Father), Michael Wittenborn (Dr. Schmidt-Ott), Burghart Klaußner (Dr. Gunthen), Barbara Auer (Barbara Gunthen); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Florian Koerner von Gustorf/ Michael Weber; Cinema Guild; 2007-Germany-in German with English subtitles)

"An edgy, intellectual and enigmatic dream-like metaphysical thriller about living in post-reunification contemporary German as a venture capitalist."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

An edgy, intellectual and enigmatic dream-like metaphysical thriller about living in post-reunification contemporary German as a venture capitalist, that is grounded in reality when it examines and questions the desires of the new German capitalist who can't resist playing such brutal venture capitalist money games that have life and death consequences. It's directed and written by the talented 47-year-old Christian Petzold ("Barbara"/"The State I Am In"/"Jerichow"), a member of the "Berlin School" of filmmakers--they all live in Berlin.

It's an odd film that's inspired by a number of Japanese ghost story films, Ambrose Bierce's short story, made into a film in 1962 entitled "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," and the equally strange B film horror classic directed by Herk Harvey called Carnival of Souls (1962). Petzold is all ears to the opinions on his films from his former film school teacher Harun Farocki, whom he credits with being the inspiration for Yella. The heroine's name was lifted from Yella Rottlander, who played the protagonist Alice in Wim Wenders' Alice in the Cities (1974).

Yella Fichte (Nina Hoss) gets off a train, returning to her hometown in the former East German industrial city of Wittenberge, where she's to visit her beloved working-class father and let him know she's got a job with a great opportunity in the West. But before she reaches dad's place, she's menacingly stalked by her ex-husband Ben (Hinnerk Schönemann) who professes to still love her and desperately wants her back even if she doesn't want the volatile failed businessman anymore. Ben goes into a temper tantrum the next day when Yella resists his one-sided love while he drives her to the train station and careens his luxury S.U.V. over the bridge into the Elbe River (the dividing point between East and West). Ben remains in the water and Yella seemingly escapes, and without reporting the crash ends up journeying by train westward to Hanover. That's the modernistic capitalist mecca of Germany, where she's been hired as an accountant for a firm that makes steering modules for airbuses. When this valued job doesn't materialize because her crooked boss (Michael Wittenborn) is given the bounce by the firm, Yella ends up working freelance for a venture capitalist she meets in the hotel she's staying at. The shady ambitious investment banker Philipp (Devid Striesow) hires Yella for her ability to read balance sheets and to be a stooge when he uses trickery to get a deal done (such as striking the “broker pose,” something he learned from a John Grisham film) to negotiate buyout deals for his predatory firm that deals with venture capitalists unable to secure credit from the regulated banks and are desperate for cash. Yella in a short time shows great skills in these tricky negotiated deals and has no qualms abetting her boss' criminal deeds to help him get the deal wrapped up, and finds she enjoys this work even more than her past straight accountant jobs.

Though not initially attracted to each other, they find their mutual professional interests brings them together and they have an affair in the numerous sleek but cold hotels where they spend so much down time. They spend their days seemingly riding forever to their next work destination in an efficient luxury car on the German Autobahn, as this romance has its own movie magical Bonnie and Clyde turf it covers. Love for the secretive Philipp is acknowledged when he finally allows the haunted vulnerable Yella to know about his dream to one day be his own boss as a venture capitalist, as he has a serious investment scheme up his sleeve. This thrill ride she believes is also what now rocks her boat, and though the past still might frighten her (a threatening Ben appears to be stalking her) it no longer matters in determining her values or relationships. But happiness for Yella with her new Prince Charming is short-lived, as the film becomes more abstract as it crosses the borders of the material and spiritual world (East and West Germany) and she learns that her dreams cannot be her reality in this lifetime.

REVIEWED ON 4/24/2012       GRADE: A-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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