Reviews and notes
2007 Berlin, Austria, Seattle
European cinema has never had a shortage of films about thirtysomething folk suffering marriage crisis as a result of infidelity; nor has the continent suffered much of a dearth of character-based dramas in which family-members congregate in rural locales, there to explore their feelings about each other and shed light on long-dormant enmities and passions. So it's testament to writer-director Arslan that Vacation
, which stands at the intersection of these two well-worn, Bergman-ish sub-genres, should feel so fresh and absorbing. The key to the film is the way Arslan moves between various stories as they near-simultaneously unfold, following a pair of inquisitive children in one scene, moving to the painful travails of their parents in the next, then spending time on the laconic puppy-love of a teenage couple, and so on. It's a multi-generational approach that seems to find interest in each of the generations, while also taking care to explore the buildings and countryside around them. Slow-burning and low-key, with moments of slyly deadpan humour among the prevailing seriousnes (even the Aldrich-esque belated arrival of the opening titles may raise a smile or two) this is a finely-calibrated, resonant work which confirms Arslan as yet another talent to watch in a strong generation of young-ish German film-makers.
- Neil Young, Jigsaw Lounge, 18 April 2007.
A few summer days. Hanging out, reading, talking - in Thomas Arslan's quiet, intense drama.
We are with the upper middle class: the daughters Laura and Sophie, one is a translator, the other a musician, their mother works as a photographer. The mother and her partner live in the Uckermark countryside near Berlin. A daughter comes to visit, with her husband and two children, a grandmother is still there.
We observe these four generations over a few summer days; hanging out, reading, talking, eating, going to bed alone. Children watch ants, there is swiming in the lake. At some point the second sister arrives. She lives alone, her relationship with the rest of the family is more distant. "How are you Laura?" asks someone, and we flashback to her childhood as we see the little girl rebelling against authority. Softly, slowly the fine hairline cracks in the family relationships are visible, opening up old wounds. Behind the facade all is not so wonderful and harmonious as it should be. It reminds one of the Russian drama of the Impressionists, Gorky's Three Sisters
and Chekhov's Summer Guests
. Instead of "Moscow" we have "Berlin", and unfulfilled longing fills the room.
But the sun is shining outside. We hear the sound of crickets, the wind that rustles through the green - and what a green! For a long time at the movies no one has seen pictures of such a casual intensity, as now, in Thomas Arslan's Vacation
. Accurate, clear and lovely. Here we generally speak of the "Berlin School". It is true, but distracting. The drama is definitely there, but quiet. How often in life. And Arslan does not use moralizing camera shots where the viewer can meditate for hours, and why are they needed?. He films with compelling economics, just different than many.
The actors are known more for their work in the theater: Angela Winkler sometimes slips briefly into the strained quirkiness of the German "art cinema" of the 80s, but her colleagues - Karoline Eichhorn, Uwe Bohm, Anja Schneider - put the brakes on quickly. That basic idea of a combination of randomness and precision dominates, which is rare, even among colleagues in Berlin.
is a summer movie, suitable for the holiday season. Downright French lightness, but more Rohmer. This French attitude manifests itself in the light, in the description of an afternoon at the lake, the preparation for dinner, in the conversation. One can understand: We are looking at life. And that's also funny because it exposes ourselves and others.
is a film about emotions as they range from expressing them to control. Behind this Vacation
is also a film about power. About the power of mothers, the women, a women's regime, about family, about provincial depression, on vacation in Germany. About the middle class also.
- Rüdiger Suchland, Artechock Film (translated from German).
Back to screening list