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A deadly car crash sets off three parallel stories of women at crisis points, faltering behind the doors of the same, plain Vienna apartment block. A bored nurse with a stable, comfortable family life has a wild but almost-wordless extramarital affair with a fashion-conscious traveling salesman, who's obsessed with sex photos. An unstable young Austrian grocery checker lies to hold on to her philandering Yugoslavian boyfriend, claiming she's pregnant. Finally, a recent divorcée whose violent, ex-husband is a King of Denial intent on getting her back. Will the residents' fibs and moral failures save or destroy them ? Can the women safely express their fears ? Written by
Gotz Spielmann is a true auteur. His film-making style is instantly recognizable, weaving a spell. What's going on in front of the camera can be merely someone shutting a door, a couple having explicit sex, a violent car crash, two people having an argument, but that camera is not moving. This makes you highly aware of everything in the frame and everything is there for a reason. You notice colors, especially white, black and red. Virtually no music, except some smoky sax over the credits. His constant use of medium shots remind you that you are not "there," you are just an observer.
The movie portrays a highly contrived, but nevertheless convincing, story on the theme of sexual betrayal. Three couples who live in the same apartment building (but do not know each other) are introduced and their stories are told, one at a time. We meet a very reserved nurse and mother who is having a passionate affair behind her husband's back. Then, a supermarket checkout clerk, not emotionally stable, who has falsely told her Yugoslavian boyfriend that she is pregnant in hopes of hanging on to him. Finally, a divorced woman dealing with a racist and thuggish ex-husband who won't let go.
As the movie progresses, odd events get explained. Once, a couple walking in the courtyard hear a woman scream. Later in the movie we see the scene of the screaming woman.
The movie generates an enormous amount of suspense as it unfolds. Will the nurse confess to her husband? Will the checkout clerk come clean about her false pregnancy? Will the divorced woman be seriously harmed by her increasingly erratic ex-husband? As the last question, it is answered in a harrowing psychological confrontation that will have you on the edge of your seat. What people are eating and where they eat it also seems to matter.
It leave it to others to explain the meaning of the roses in a vase, the dog trainer, the hooker on the corner and other apparent signifiers in the film.
If you liked this, be sure to check out Spielmann's "Revanche," which is even better.
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