At an out of doors desk of a small cafe located on the floor ground of an imposing brick constructing, two lovers are ending their affair. The lady of the pair, not pleased with this improvement, bickers with the man a few voice mail message. When that thread is exhausted, she tells him matter-of-factly, “If you leave me, I’ll have to kill you.”
Well, that escalated rapidly. The lady, whose identify is Undine — performed with equal components ardour and calculation by Paula Beer — retains our sympathy whilst she makes that unreasonable pronouncement. Because, because it occurs, it’s not unreasonable. Undine is just not mentally unwell or morally reckless. What she’s speaking about right here is destiny. With seemingly minimal means, the writer-director Christian Petzold makes the viewer perceive this, mere minutes into the story, tailored from a European fantasy a few water sprite who can fall in love and grow to be human, however who should endure tremendously if her lover is untrue.
This modern-day Undine is, on land, a historian who instructs rich vacationers on Berlin’s aesthetic and political schisms over the centuries. These classes result in generally tense exchanges: an evocation of “an architecture in keeping with national tradition,” for instance, prompts the query, “Hadn’t the Nazis discredited nationalism?”
But Petzold doesn’t hammer the potential for political parable or allegory right here — which is just a little shocking, given the classes on trendy German historical past he gives up in photos similar to “Phoenix.” Instead, this fractured not-quite-fairy-tale parcels out provocative situations of magical realism on arguably bigger themes.
After being ditched by her sniveling associate Johannes (Jacob Matschenz), Undine virtually instantly retreats into the cafe, the place she fixates on a small statue of a helmeted sea diver in a fish tank. The aquarium vibrates and quickly explodes, knocking her to the ground with one other man, Christoph (Franz Rogowski). They’re each drenched, and she’s a bit minimize up by shards from the tank.
This peculiar meet-cute is dealt with straightforwardly (the film’s clear, economical manufacturing design, by Merlin Ortner, grounds the image on this respect), as are the story’s different implausible components — together with an ethereal catfish and a diving outing throughout which Undine mysteriously sheds her moist go well with, flippers and oxygen tank.
Undine’s new love — the type, compassionate and figuring out Christoph (he and Beer had been additionally paired in Petzold’s prior movie, “Transit”) — is himself a diver. Being close to him makes Undine really feel extra at dwelling, so to talk. But Christoph’s work, welding underwater generators, is dangerous. Soon Undine is offered with a dilemma that forces her to confront a destiny she had hoped her new happiness would assist her keep away from.
Petzold’s cinematic storytelling model is elegant however unfussy, completely complemented by Hans Fromm’s cinematography and by the sparely used music, which incorporates the Icelandic pianist Vikingur Olafsson’s dreamy interpretations of Bach and the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive.” “Undine” is finally extra enigmatic than most of Petzold’s work. It can also be, like its title character, eerily lovely. While it might nicely function a high-end date film, it’s additionally one thing extra.
Not rated. In German and English, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. In theaters and obtainable to lease or purchase on Amazon, Google Play and different streaming platforms and pay TV operators.