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A disfigured concentration-camp survivor (Nina Hoss), unrecognizable after facial reconstruction surgery, searches ravaged postwar Berlin for the husband (Ronald Zehrfeld) who might have betrayed her to the Nazis.
Nina, an end-of-teenage orphan with mental problems, starts a new job as a garden cleaner when she meets Toni. They fell in love with each other, but soon Toni starts betraying Nina. In the meantime, Francoise is picked up at a psychic department of a Berlin hospital by her husband, Pierre. After seeing Nina, Francoise believes that she has found her kidnapped daughter Marie, but neither Toni nor Pierre believe her. Nina is unsure about what to think... Written by
I've seen this film more than once now, and there's always someone complaining about the "obvious construction" of the plot afterwards. But then - this is part of Petzold's game: he plays along with the rules of genre.
It's very nice, how the highly improbable story of how the two girls (Timoteo/Hummer) meet, is again mirrored in another, even more improbable story, that the girls make up for a casting. This film is a journey between fact and fiction, it's more about potentials, things that might have happened in the past or might be happening in the future, than it is about actual ongoings. It's a reverie, sorts of - so apt enough there are a lot of motives, Freud might have found interesting for his dream analysis, like all the "doppelganger"-constellations.
Also, I think, "Gespenster" might be interesting to be watched in comparison to current Asian cinema of the uncanny: Petzold's everyday urban architecture also feels haunted in an unobtrusive, strangely familiar way. This film is not about the obvious. To describe it as the story of two girls who meet and eventually become friends and lovers, or as the story of an orphaned mother, who searches Europe for her lost daughter, clearly doesn't say much about the nature of "Gespenster" at all.
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