Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Police Officer's Wife (2 Stars)

As my regular readers know, I'm a fan of German cinema, particularly films made since 1990. For that reason I'm excited whenever a German film is shown in Birmingham. It doesn't happen very often. Birmingham's alternative cinema, the Mac, often shows foreign films which can't be seen anywhere else. Today they screened "Die Frau des Polizisten" ("The Police Officer's Wife"), a film that won a special award at the Vienna Film Festival. I knew almost nothing about it, except that it lasts three hours and deals with domestic violence.

The film's style can be summed up by the first two minutes. A black screen. The inscription "Chapter One" appears. Then we see a close-up of a branch in the forest. The camera lingers on the image for what seems like an eternity. The picture goes out of focus. Then it's in focus again. Another black screen. "End of Chapter One". People in the cinema broke out in laughter. My friend sitting next to me whispered, "Now I can see why the film lasts three hours". After that the film could only get better. Couldn't it?

"Chapter Two". We see a policeman coming home. He takes off his uniform, slowly untying his shoelaces, hanging up his clothes in an orderly fashion. Eventually he walks upstairs in his underwear. "End of Chapter Two". More laughter in the audience.

"Chapter Three". A close-up of an old man's head as he stands watching a snowy field. He turns and stares into the camera for a minute. Then he turns back and stares at the field again. "End of Chapter Three". By this point nobody is laughing.

And so the film continues for 59 chapters over three hours. We see the policeman, his wife and his daughter. We have detailed views of people putting on their shoes, chopping onions and performing various other mundane tasks. The policeman's family sings children's songs. A fox searches for food in the streets. In some chapters the policeman hits his wife, and we see her bruises getting worse throughout the film.

Reviews of the film say that it highlights domestic violence. That's not the impression that I get from the film. The image that stays with me is the utter boredom of a film rambling on with random images. I'll be generous and give the film 2 stars, because the camera work is very beautiful. I've never seen such interesting close-ups of people's faces and knees. The pictures, taken individually, are stunning. The film as a whole is mind-numbingly dull.

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