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I is someone else

Michael Stadler
Michael Stadler

Tonight, Dominik Graf’s new TV movie SHADOWS OF THE PAST premieres at the Gloria Palast. It’s an artfully layered puzzle straddling different timelines, in which the question of true identity leads to surprising answers. Additionally, PERFORMER by Oliver Grüttner will be screened today for the first time. In this film, a teenager toys with the idea of going on a killing spree — but does he really want to do that? And who exactly is Rose in SECRET NAME?

I is someone else

Right at the start of Dominik Graf’s latest film, the camera focuses on a rugged landscape, where a chasm opens up. This film will be about dark depths, the exact nature of which is not immediately recognizable. A rapid montage of impressions follows, juxtaposing scenes from the present and the past, making it hard for the audience to know what’s what. “And you? Where are you?” asks a young man on the audio track.

Christina, portrayed by Verena Altenberger, is a physiotherapist in Salzburg. She’s confident in the work she does with her hands, but otherwise she feels unstable, not always knowing who she really is. Christina is lost between her perception of what is happening at the moment and the memories she’s being bombarded with. She goes to a therapy session, where she talks about the visions in her head, the sensation that she’s having thoughts that are not even her own. “Sometimes I’m even afraid I’ll see a different face in the mirror,” she says. Christina fears she is losing her mind, but can’t find a way out of the web she’s spinning.

A small spider is one of the recurring motifs in SHADOWS OF THE PAST; it could even be the focus of Graf’s film. “In the beginning was neither the Word nor God, but the spider,” we are told with recourse to spider mythology. The narrative web in which Graf entangles Christina is unraveled only gradually. It becomes clear that she is pursuing an old flame. Christina had begun an affair with Jakob, a much older man, when she was only 16. He died in an accident, and she never got over his death.

Gesicht Der Erinnerung Online1

Twenty years later, Christina meets Patrick. The circumstances are now reversed; Patrick is much younger than she is. His personality reminds her strongly of Jakob’s — does life just keep repeating itself? The two of them enter into a relationship; the spider continues to spin its web. Identity is a tangled matter in Dominik Graf’s films. He’s always been heavily involved in the crime genre, whose narratives revolve around the search for the perpetrator’s identity, a recurring thread.

Graf does service to the genre and adds variety to it with never-ending creative delight. His last crime thriller, POLIZEIRUF 110: BREAKING POINT MIDNIGHT, which premiered at the Filmfest in 2021, was primarily about Verena Altenberger as an investigator trying to get a highly suspicious serial offender to confess before midnight, because otherwise she’d have to let him go. In that film, the “how” of the revelation was crucial. In SHADOWS OF THE PAST, the “who” also comes to the fore. Who is the other and, most importantly, who am I?

Christina becomes downright obsessed with turning Patrick into a reincarnation of Jakob, her first great love. She gives him a suit of Jakob’s to put on, and would like it if he dyed his hair darker to resemble Jacob’s. The cinematic identities start to become unstuck. Graf’s film might be revealing a source of inspiration: Alfred Hitchcock’s VERTIGO, in which James Stewart as John “Scottie” Ferguson harasses a woman (Kim Novak) into taking on the appearance of another (also Kim Novak), who is deceased. Hitchcock’s film also plays with Scottie’s fear of heights — he gets dizzy whenever he looks down — which brings us back to the beginning (and end) of Graf’s film, his artfully layered puzzle, in which Christina, but also Patrick, played by Alessandro Schuster, gaze into their depths of their respective identities.

SHADOWS OF THE PAST will premiere tonight at 8:30 pm at the Gloria Palast, with Dominik Graf, the cast, and members of the team attending. The second screening will be held as a matinee tomorrow at 9:30 am at HFF Kino 1.

Performer Online3

Performer

Tilman Vellguth also has a minor part in Graf’s film, playing a friend who is a fellow member of Patrick’s band. In PERFORMER by Oliver Grüttner, Vellguth plays the protagonist, a high-schooler who is planning a school shooting. Tim, who seems reserved in everyday situations, uses his webcam to record several home videos in which he proclaims his hatred of the world, especially of women, and presents himself, gun in hand, as a future perpetrator.

Like an actor, Tim rehearses a role in his room at night, while his parents have no idea of the darkness that lies within their son. When Tim goes on his first date, raising the possibility that his first relationship might come about, his plans begin to falter. Will he turn his performance for the camera into action? What identity will he choose? In a densely packed hour, Grüttner gives us a look at the darkest side of toxic masculinity in this strong, impressive feature-film debut filled with stunning performances.

La Place D'une Autre Online1

secret name

Here’s one more tip: it’s for a film that is screening again tonight at 8 pm at the Filmmuseum and that also revolves around performance and dizzying questions of identity. SECRET NAME by Aurélia Georges is about Nélie, who loses her job as a maid right at the beginning of the film because the master of the house is stalking her and his wife catches him doing it.

At the start of the First World War, poverty reigns on the streets of Paris. Nélie at least finds a job as a nurse with the Red Cross. She also takes care of Rose, a young woman from a reputable family who was on her way to becoming a reader to the wealthy Madame de Lengwil. During a bombing raid, Rose dies as Nélie looks on. Without further ado, Nélie assumes Rose’s identity and takes her job. This threatens to be revealed again and again in this drama, which subtly evolves into a sophisticated thriller. Whether Madame de Lengwil suspects the hoax is unclear for a long time. In any case, she soon learns to appreciate her new reader. Who she really is might not be all that important.

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