Yella (2007) Poster


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magus-916 February 2007
Petzold is a very controlled and composed film-maker. In this film, as in GESPENSTER, he uses this almost forensic calm and diurnal realism to explore metaphysical issues. So this film, which ostensibly takes place in the aggressive financial world of mergers and acquisitions, is also a film about death, the soul, and guilt. It is a great challenge to look at these intangible themes through the prism of a very tangible, concrete world - but this Petzold does achieve, with beautifully composed and controlled imagery, and even a nice line in wry, ironic humour. There are some great performances in the film - they draw you part of the way in, but nevertheless there is still some distance between viewer and film. This maybe results in a slightly cold viewing experience, but the film has stayed with me long after its end - it is a complex and highly rewarding work, if mainly in retrospect.
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The fragile time before the brain stops
hasosch23 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This is an attempt at an interpretation to a movie which I consider a highlight amongst the movies released in the last couple of years. Since an interpretation implies spoilers, my text is full of them. However, given the chance that I am wrong, the spoilers are dissolving by reading. Therefore, best read this text after you have watched "Yella".

It is a gruesome picture that we can see in older European movies: The farmer grabs a ax and cuts off the head of the poor chicken. Whenever such a situation is portrayed truthfully, then one sees that the trunk of the chicken still flutters around for a good bit of time, before the heart stops and gives the final release out of life. All this you do not see in this movie, thanks the heaven, but the question arises what happens in the brain when the body is dead. Is it true that the death of the heart blows out the last gleaming of brain-activities, or is it rather so, that there are relays in the brain that gather all the present information together, not according to the logic of logic, but to the logic of our dreams, everything unreeling in enormous speed until the brain stops because the last feedbacks from the heart-streams who are still in the body, are ebbed away? After Yella is more or less hijacked by her former husband, he wants to kill him- and herself by driving with the car over a bridge and precipitating into the river. However, we see, how first Yella and then Ben come out, exhausted but alive. Interestingly enough, shortly after, Yella reaches the train that she wanted to take for getting to her new job: Not only was the place of the accident far away from the railway-station, but neither did she loose her high-heels in the water nor are her stockings dirty. The three "clue-men" she meets in and around her new job belong to the same type of men. In the hotel, nobody knows about the reservation of her room that she had made some days ago. In a conference with business partners she knows like a psychic that these partners are betrayers and have even profited from the bankruptcy of her husband. We also hear three times a noise like from an airplane after the cry of a raven. Every time the scene changes, like the acts in a stage play. Although it turns out that the manager who gave her the new job, has been fired meanwhile, she manages to jump from part-time job to part-time job in order to prove her that she is capable to manage her life without the "help" of her husband. However, when the film ends, one sees almost the same scenery as at the beginning, after the car with her and her husband crashed into the river. But there is now just one thing: Both Yella and Ben are dead. Obviously, this film by Christian Petzold is the attempt to reconstruct the fragile time between a lethal accident and the death, so-to-say a mental geography of the never-land between beginning and end of death. This is so fascinatingly done in this movie, that my recommendation is unlimited.
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A strange "rite de passage"!
herjoch22 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Films of the so-called "Berlin School" (Petzold,Arslan,Schanelec)in the last years frequently represented the German cinema at international festivals,and not with small success.Reactions were often similar:Accolades from the critics,especially those from France,while the non-professional spectators mostly were at a loss with the film because of the slow and fragmented storytelling,the long scenes without cutting,the concentration on close-ups and the staging of space.All that applies also to the new film "Yella" by Chr. Petzold,which for many was the favorite for the "Golden Bear" at the Berlinale 2007,but ended up only with a absolutely deserved "Silver Bear" for the fantastic Nina Hoss. "Yella" is some kind of finale to Petzold's "Geister-Trilogie",to which also belong "Die innere Sicherheit" and "Gespenster"; films,which are situated in a clearly outlined reality,but whose protagonists glide through their life like phantoms,unseizable and themselves unable to build a relation to the surrounding world.The story itself is quite simple and more or less superficial: Yella, living in East Germany and married to a man,whose business is near to bankruptcy, has applied for a job in West Germany and plans to leave her past life behind her.Her husband offers to drive her to the station and after having tried in vain to talk her into staying with him and starting their relationship new , he purposely drives the car through the railing of a bridge into the water.They both manage to get to the bank.Yella then disappears and takes the trip to the west.She doesn't get the promised job,but because of her knowledge of dealing with accounts and her appearance she gets the job of assistant to a specialist for venture capital.The film gives brilliant insights into the world of globalized capitalism dominated by greed, betrayal and blackmailing.Yella comes to enjoy the power and the success.It seems that she made it:A profitable job and a new man in her life.But she ruins it all by her own abnormal ambition fed by love.Well, then their is the end,which displeased so many spectators and was called pretentious, illogical or simply stuck on.But if one watches the film carefully and pays attention to all the visual and acoustic guiding themes the end is logic and convincing.A formally stern,deliberately cool and strangely mesmerizing lyrical film.By the way: It tells you more about today's German state of mind than a dozen statistical surveys.
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Mood better than story
paul2001sw-127 February 2010
In Christian Petzold's film 'Yella', a young woman stalked by her husband after leaving him slowly rebuilds her life, and self-respect, through starting a relationship with a criminal businessman. But it's not clear how much of the story is real, and how much is the product of her traumatised mind. In its conclusion, the film resolves this question, and the answer is almost inevitably disappointing; the kick in the tail insufficiently surprising or satisfying. What is good, however, is most of what precedes the ending, as the viewer is drawn into a world intriguingly on the balance of normalcy and the sinister, as seen by a woman herself on the edge. It's nicely underplayed and there's scarcely a wasted scene; it's just a shame that the final resolution has little new to add.
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films that make you think you think...
Burton_Herschel_128 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Like many of the films made in the past fifteen years that seem to take after "Jacob's Ladder" (which, as one reviewer here has pointed out, is merely hearkening back to Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"...), there is ultimately no point to the 'twist' at the ending of this one. With the better films of this genre (like "Jacob's Ladder", "Mulholland Dr.", etc.) the dream/fantasy/afterlife scenes actually reflect something of the psyche of the character whose internal states we're experiencing an externalised version of. In this film, the use of this plot device is almost comical; when you die, your life doesn't flash before your eyes - you imagine yourself doing business! So what?

Another reviewer on here said: "The dynamic and exciting world of business is transformed into a dull sequence of events, which constantly occur[...]", but I would say this is the one area where the film works - the reality of business IS incredibly dull, repetitive, banal, etc., and is only remotely of interest to those involved who may stand to gain or lose money. The director succeeded in portraying the world of business as one of male posturing and superficiality, where everyone's faking and speaking in numbers to mask their basic needs and desires (i.e. making greed seem logical).

The ending, and all the 'clues' scattered throughout (which are really some of the more obvious ones as far as these sorts of films go), ruin the sense of realism the director manages to build in these business scenes. Like "The Machinist", "Trauma", "Open Your Eyes/Vanilla Sky" and "Lucid", the revelation at the end of "Yella" ultimately doesn't count for anything... Instead of creating an actual mystery, the filmmakers of these films present the appearance of a mystery; instead of cleverness of construction, the appearance of cleverness; instead of being (so-called) 'films that makes you think', they're films that flatter the viewer into thinking they're thinking. But all that's really here is a pseudo-cryptic puzzle with 'clues' and 'symbols' that are quite heavy-handed when one catches on to what is being done, designed to make the viewers confused at the 'weirdness' throughout the majority of the plot, only to have it explained to them at the end so they think they 'get it'. This sort of film-making is basically the equivalent of making up one's own personal coded message, showing it to people who will of course have no idea what it 'means', and then giving them the key to decode it after they're confused - it's an exercise in pretend cleverness on the part of the filmmaker, and any viewer who feels proud of themselves for being able to 'spot the clues' after being given the key has been manipulated into feeling like they managed to do something clever - to 'think they're thinking'...

What is it that makes these kinds of films appealing to us? Is it because the experience of life is confusing and illogical, and deep down we would like someone to come along and give us an explanation, but at the same time we don't want to admit to ourselves that we can't understand things as they are? Films that manage to accurately capture the rhythms, complexities and confusions of actual life are far more mysterious than a film like this that's been self-consciously designed to give the appearance of mystery.

This film is a disappointment after having seen the director's first film, "The State I'm In", which got everything right that this one got wrong...
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Offering depth beyond the life and death matrix
Jugu Abraham16 June 2008
Germany's Christian Petzold belongs to the new breed of European directors that loves to make films layered with meaning for the astute viewer. Russia's Andrei Zvyagintsev mesmerized serious film-goers with his multi-layered films that urge film-goers to approach cinema as one would approach a challenging and intelligent puzzle to derive maximum entertainment. Spain's multi-talented Alejandro Amenabar has proved that a holistic mix of good screenplay, music and direction can result in films that recall the precocious brilliance of the young Orson Welles' Citizen Kane made so many decades ago. These are films that are delectable for the intelligent and patient viewer who does not demand to be spoon-fed by the director. Members of this exclusive club of directors include Austria's Michael Haneke and Finland's Aki Kaurismaki. In Yella, Petzold throws morsels of visual treats at the viewer. The attentive viewer will ask for more, for the less attentive it will be an invitation to snore.

"Yella" is the name of the main character of the film. (Yella is creatively linked to Wim Wender's key character in his film Alice in the Cities, a character without a mother moving from city to city.). Petzold's Yella has a father but the mother is either absent or not discussed, not far removed from Wender's Yella.

Yella wears red most of the time. Now bright red is worn by many women in Europe but the color acquires a different meaning when you realize its political association with East Germany. Petzold's Yella lives in former East Germany, full of birds, trees, rustic atmosphere and warmth. Petzold's Yella yearns to make big bucks in the former West Germany, less populated, richer and more corrupt at corporate and personal levels.

Halfway into the film, there is a suicidal motor accident. What follows teases the mind of an attentive viewer. A desperate woman boards a train with empty compartments. A male person peeks into her compartment but leaves her alone. Much later, she realizes that the train has reached its destination and has been parked in a yard. As she strolls into town, her eyes meet with those of a woman, who is apparently well off financially and secure in an urban house. This was in my view the most powerful and enigmatic sequence in the film. Who is this woman? Is it Yella comparing what she would be like in future? When her future benefactor turns out to be a crook, Yella "helps" him. Yella herself slowly transforms into a crooked woman as a chameleon would in new surroundings, all the while yearning for the old life of her father and financially crippled husband.

The second half of the film with its almost empty hotels provide a clue to the film, just as Amenabar progressively provided several clues in his well-made ghost movie "The Others" that there is something unreal. Can characters enter locked hotel rooms, eat food and disappear? Would characters who once stalked Yella be transformed into characters that Yella would herself pursue in dark alleyways outside her hotel instead of hiding from them? Who is alive and who is dead? What is real and what is imaginary? Why is the sale price of the husband's business, eerily the same figure as the figure quoted to purchase computers? You are coaxed by your own inquisitiveness to go backwards in the film to figure that out. Somewhere floating in the water after the accident you can spot an empty can of Coca-cola, a symbol of western materialism and prosperity.

There are aspects of the film that bothers me. Why did Yella leave her husband? Because he was obsessed with her? Why is the mother figure absent? Is true love absent? Yella is portrayed by actor Nina Hoss and the performance won her a Silver Bear for the Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival. The film's editor, cinematographer, and director—all three have been separately honored with minor awards for their contributions in this film. The surprise for me was that the story was written by first time writer Simone Baer, basically an established casting director. It is remarkable that Baer and Petzold should weave an interesting film around personal guilt, aspirations and quality of life. I was intrigued how a male director could delve inside the female psyche so well until I was amused to spot that the original writer was Simone Baer, a woman.

Yella is portrayed by actor Nina Hoss and the performance won her a Silver Bear for the Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival. The film's editor, cinematographer, and director—all three have been separately honored with minor awards for their contributions in this film. The surprise for me was that the story was written by first time writer Simone Baer, basically an established casting director. It is remarkable that Baer and Petzold should weave an interesting film around personal guilt, aspirations and quality of life. I was intrigued how a male director could delve inside the female psyche so well until I was amused to spot that the original writer was Simone Baer, a woman.

Petzold and the "club" of like-minded European directors invite the audience to think and reflect about themselves after they view these movies. These films offer interesting views on politics, ethics, business and love. They may or may not be obvious. It is for the viewer to spot them. They are not served on a platter. The story on screen remains as a pivotal point for the debate to begin among viewers. These films urge you to consider your own situation in life and reflect how you would react under similar circumstances shown in these films.
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Reminds me of an old film...
finnn2 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I thoroughly enjoyed this film with its easy pace and moments of emptiness - but it really reminded me a lot of the 1962 version of "Carnival of Souls". You have the car driven off the bridge, the recurring musical theme, the constant drawing to the water, her acceptance of a job after travelling there after the crash, the way her life gradually corrupts despite her being given a second chance and the final moments where she's discovered to have died in the original crash after all. The two films aren't so similar that I was certain it was a remake, in many ways guessing if it was a supernatural story or not made it more interesting to watch.
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emkarpf9 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I've seen this on TV today for the first time, and afterwards I thought, how odd. First let me say what I liked. I think the movie was well-acted, and well-casted. I also liked how it created its own universe - the locations fitted very well the surreal, dreamlike quality of the scenes. This is something I demand from movies, and it was done well in this one. I liked how they used the Expo site for it. What I didn't like: The ending was very predictable. At the moment Yella pulled herself out of the water and ran to the station in her wet clothes, I started to beg: Please let this not be another version of Ambrose Bierce's short story about the hanged man. Then I realized that her stalking ex-husband could only be seen by her, and I hoped: Please let this not be another Sixth Sense. Even more so, after she saw Burghart Claussner's character after his death. The red blouse became a hint that was not to be overlooked anymore - especially after she'd claimed she 'needed to buy something else to wear' and still ran around in the red blouse, after all. Well, it was the Bierce version. How innovative. And I wouldn't have minded a joke now and then. Why is it that German movies have such a hard time with being funny in spite of all the characters' problems?
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The Orange Peel Stripped Away
kingacres09 May 2009
If you are looking for a thriller that sweeps you away for 90 minutes go elsewhere. If you are looking for a twister that strives to constantly outwit your keen literary and cinematic intellectual sensibilities with its never-ending brain teasers this isn't it. The film does have flaws but, as a vehicle that facilitates a better understanding of human nature, it is very successful.

Why can't bright people get over the need to duel with the directors and writers of film and, instead, pay attention to what is important? Whatever its shortcomings, this is a look into the psyche of a human being that, at least for me, reveals all the frailties, contradictions and inconsistencies that our species is heir to.

See this film, allow yourself to enter into Yella - then, by all means, dissect and analyze it later.
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Money changes everything
richard_sleboe17 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
It seems Yella (Nina Hoss) has next to nothing left to lose as she takes an accounting job in a nondescript business park two hours away from her hometown in present day Eastern Germany. But what little hope she still has - make a living, get away from her stalking ex-boyfriend - crumbles as the job opportunity dematerializes before she has even started. She is back to square one of the playing field, and she doesn't know the rules of the game. But Yella is a quick learner. On the spur of a moment, she attaches herself to a slightly shady private equity guy (Devid Striesow, don't miss him in "Eden"). As soon as they take their makeshift investment show to the road, Yella understands that there are fortunes to be won and lost on every deal. There is nothing obviously appealing about this movie: barren sets, uneventful plot, unassuming acting. But as you keep watching and wait for something to happen, Yella's quiet desperation gets to you. In many ways, the movie's gloomy surface is a metaphor of her desolate state of mind. Watch out for Barbara Auer's trophy wife guest appearance, and for a surprise ending reminiscent of William Golding's "Pincher Martin".
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