The well-liked opening film of the festival and a top 10 hit in Germany when it opened in late August, writer-director Fatih Akin
's "In July", his second feature, is a fairly traditional romance in the guise of an offbeat road movie.
Moritz Bleibtreu of "Run Lola Run" plays tall, handsome and lovestruck Daniel. Unfortunately for the equally attractive and romantically inclined Juli, which is German for July and the month in which the story takes place, Daniel is not on a quest to win her heart.
The story begins in Hamburg, Germany, and features misadventures in Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. Physics professor Daniel tries to reach Istanbul, Turkey, for a rendezvous with a beautiful girl he's only seen once or twice. He picks up carefree Juli, played by Christiane Paul
, as a traveling companion. The pair met earlier on the sidewalk, when he bought a ring from her. She has chosen him for his manly awkwardness and big heart. He's doesn't pay attention to her, but he can't get along without her.
Unpredictable in a few places and always watchable because of the charismatic duo of Bleibtreu and Paul, "In July" has a terrific soundtrack and a few magical cinematic moments that define true love and prove more effective than the usual mainstream approach.
THE STATE I AM IN
A strong role for up-and-coming actress Julia Hummer
(who has a small but memorable part in "Gigantic"), "The State I Am In" is a tense coming-of-age drama about the rebellious daughter of rebellious parents.
Clara (Barbara Auer
) and Hans (Richy Muller) are always saying that things will get better. With teenage daughter Jeanne (Hummer), they are hiding out on the coast of Portugal, waiting to move to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and assume new identities.
Although it's never clearly established what past crimes they are guilty of, Jeanne's mom and dad set out to rob a bank in Germany. While Jeanne is a knowing part of their plan, she increasingly resists their attempts to stop her from having a boyfriend. A surfer she meets on the beach, Heinrich (Bilge Bingul
), says he's just a "McJobber who loves Brian Wilson," but Jeanne falls in love as best she can. Believably complicated and unable to escape participation in the bloody finale, she is scarred but still standing at the end of director Christian Petzold's tightly wound fourth feature.
Set mostly in the German town of Aschersleben, this semicomical romantic triangle finds David Marek
Harloff) and Benno (Roman Knizka
), two best friends who are stuck in a rut, both falling for Anna (Franziska Petri
), a would-be actress from nearby Halle. The first solo feature from Munich-based director Vanessa Jopp
, "Forget America" is fairly tame but involving. The screenplay by Maggie Peren
certainly gives plenty of frustrating moments to lead character David, a photographer who initially lets Benno get the upper hand and spends the rest of the movie regretting it.
The three actors are engagingly attuned to the young and moderately reckless milieu, which includes Benno's business selling vintage American cars and David's dingy life at home with a skinhead younger brother and disabled father. Anna comes in and out of their lives, spending most of her energy on violently emotional Benno while giving David discouraging signals over his obvious infatuation with her. All three unexpectedly underachieve in their dream careers. In the resulting tension, Benno starts to self-destruct, causing Anna to drift toward David.
Co-produced by Tom Tykwer
("Run Lola Run") and directed by one of the actors in that film, Sebastian Schipper
, "Gigantic" is an X Filme Creative Pool production that bowed stateside at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival. A bit loopy in the storytelling department -- a lot of comedy, adventure and drama is packed into the film's one long night -- "Gigantic" is satisfying enough to interest festival audiences. The character-driven piece follows three male friends in Hamburg, Germany. One of the friends is leaving for faraway places and probably is never coming back.
Walter (Antoine Monot Jr.) owns a big muscle car that transports him and pals Ricco (Florian Lukas
) and Floyd (Frank Giering
) on a round of adventuring that includes several run-ins with a troupe of angry, Elvis-themed circus performers. Ricco is the noisy daredevil of the group, but reliable Walter and gloomy Floyd -- the one leaving -- are not ones to walk away from a challenge.
They get their wish to experience "gigantic" things when a high-stakes Foosball game with a formidable opponent named Snake goes their way. The game is a lengthy, imaginatively executed sequence. The melancholy sentiments of the night climax when their underage, party-girl companion Telsa (Julia Hummer
) almost dies from alcohol poisoning.