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Charles De Bromhead
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This review was writing following a screening at and for Cambridge Film Festival (UK) in September 2012: * Contains spoilers * Last year's festival screened Abgebrannt (2011, known as Burnout), which, too, featured a holiday, but the place where the holiday happened, although regimented, did not have a character (in the way that Island (2011) worked hard to give the Isle of Mull one (other than its obvious beauty)).
In Formentera (2012), which is likewise a German-language feature (with pretty good subtitles), the place and the action seem inseparable, seem first to last unavoidably intertwined as to cause and effect, chicken and egg. It may once have been just a holiday in The Balearic Isles, but it is more than that, and we are with Nina (Sabine Timoteo) all the way, as, in a medium shot of them both on the ferry to Formentera, Ben whispers into her ear Ich liebe dich (I love you), but one will look in them in vain for that as they disembark, not holding hands, and with Ben seemingly content for her to carry a cylinder-bag that seems heavier than what is on his shoulder.
They then take a scooter to where the community, the female of one pair of which has invited them, they will be staying: Nina does not clutch, does not ever clutch, Ben's chest just because she has to, but, in return, Ben takes her somewhere to stay that will feel exposed, invasive and downright nosy, probably partly in a way indicative of their not having much money as a family (Nina's mother is looking after their three-year-old daughter, but it's not as if the people with whom they have to rub along give them much peace or privacy.
The strength of Timoteo's acting, and her primacy in the story, is clear when around the table for the first night: Ben has opened her up to something, and then does too little and too late to protect her from the comments and attitudes of those known to him, but not to her. Resembling a little Boris Becker (I am unsure about the gap in the teeth), her partner does not accord her needs the attention that he gives to his own about being in Berlin.
Nina is played with superb expression and appropriate inwardness, for she has really been taken for granted, not however much, but just because, Ben understands part of her motivation and some of her ways: as she says to him, he cannot want something for her.
Not in a chilling way, but this film's impulses and atmosphere will haunt me for a while, in particular the awkward scenes on Ibiza that typify and symbolize Nina's isolation, but also her profound strength as a person: she cannot but be affected by her experiences, but she is a fighter, and she is an encouragement to us all, not least as she shows signs of having to keep in check negative impulses.
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