Sooner or Later

Sooner or Later
Locarno International Film Festival

LOCARNO, Switzerland -- German director Ulrike von Ribbeck's sly comedy "Sooner or Later" ("Fruher oder spatter") tells of how external forces can make an averagely contented suburban family become unexpectedly unhinged. Screened in Competition here, the picture should thrive internationally with its universal portrayal of modern angst and the comic aspects of potentially serious family misadventure.

Lola Klamroth is Nora, a 14-year-old given to whimsical daydreams in which she's the star of picturesque romances. Her father, Uwe (Peter Lohmeyer), sells custom kitchens in a dwindling market while mother Anette (Beata Lehman) has returned to school to complete her education.

Their lives are disrupted when a man named Thomas (Harald Schrott) moves in next door with his beautiful wife Ellen (Marie-Lou Sellem). Charismatic and charming, Thomas is a bit of a local hero, having had some success as an actor and mountaineer. But now he's back home.

Nora is immediately drawn to Thomas, not least because he is such a contrast to her father, and Thomas is not immune to her star struck attentions. Her father, who already has a low opinion of the failed actor because he was a former lover of his wife, senses the attraction. It only adds to the stress resulting from his partner's dubious business practices, which threaten his livelihood. Nora's mother, meanwhile, finds herself being wooed by a young student (Fabian Hinrichs).

While Nora's romantic fantasies draw Thomas precariously close to a fatal attraction, Uwe lets his temper get the best of him at a neighborly dinner, and Anette drifts toward her youthful suitor. The script by Von Ribbeck and Katharina Held looks askance at these doings but contrives some unpredictable twists.

Klamroth is endearing as the young woman who yearns to be grownup but is still a child and Schrott is accomplished as a man whose need for attention draws him near to temptation. Lohmeyer and Lehman, whose characters at first appear one-dimensional, successfully develop them into richly layered and complicatedly recognizable human beings.


Polyphon Film, Fernsehgesellschaft


Director: Ulrike von Ribbeck

Writers: Ulrike von Ribbeck, Katharina Held

Producers: Beatrice Kramm, Steffi Ackermann

Director of photography: Sonja Rom

Production designer: Ina Timmerberg

Editor: Natali Barrey


Nora Klamroth

Uwe: Peter Lohmeyer

Thomas: Harald Schrott

Anette: Beata Lehman

Isa: Katharina Heyer

Ellen: Marie-Lou Sellem

Wolf: Thorsten Merten

Daniel: Fabian Hinrichs

Running time -- 91 minutes

No MPAA rating

You Bet Your Life

You Bet Your Life
Bavaria Films International

PALM SPRINGS -- Something of a Bavarian Leaving Las Vegas, Austria's official best foreign-language film submission tells the gritty, warts-and-all story of a compulsive gambler who rolls away every probable shot at redemption.

It's not the most original story in the world, but You Bet Your Life (Spiele Leben), a first feature by Antonin Svoboda that was screened at the recent Palm Springs International Film Festival, nevertheless manages to take the viewer willingly along on its dead end journey thanks to some gripping performances by Georg Friedrich and Birgit Minichmayr.

When we first meet Svoboda's Kurt, he already is in sweaty, downward spiral mode. Up to his bloodshot eyeballs in gambling debts, he has managed to alienate anybody who ever fed his addiction, including his long-suffering girlfriend and his religious father.

He ultimately decides to let the roll of a die appropriated from an older woman determine his every move, which leads him to the energetic Tanja (Minichmayr), a high-spirited drug addict with whom he develops an intense, sexually charged, Sid and Nancy-type of relationship.

It's a testament to Friedrich's acting ability that his character remains watchable despite having demonstrated a serious disregard for redeemable qualities; while Minichmayr (Downfall) conjures up a bit of that alluring spark exhibited by Bette Midler circa The Rose.

While director Svoboda and co-writer Katharina Held generally keep things on the raw, unsentimental side, they tend to go a little heavy on that die motif, especially when it comes to the film's six alternate endings.

It's a gimmicky gambit that obviously was shooting for intriguing, but no dice.

The Edukators

The Edukators
CANNES -- "The Edukators" is that rare beast, a terrific movie that boasts intelligent wit, expert storytelling, delightful characters and grown-up dialogue plus suspense and a wicked surprise ending. The first German-language film In Competition at the festival in 11 years is a crowd-pleaser guaranteed to earn international attention.

Director and co-screenwriter Hans Weingartner's ambition is high as he grafts all the elements of a thriller onto what is a fascinating discussion of the need for kids to rebel. Rebellion is difficult for today's young people when what used to be subversive is on sale at the local department store and there's the feeling that everything has been done before.

Friends Jan (Daniel Bruhl) and Peter (Stipe Erceg) have their own answer. Using a membership list from the city's yacht club and armed with Peter's knowledge of alarm systems, they break into expensive mansions in the middle of the night. But they don't steal anything. They stack furniture, put objets d'art in the toilet and stick the stereo in the fridge. And they leave a note "Your days of plenty are numbered," signed "The Edukators". "We only want to scare them", Jan says.

These are youngsters who take their politics seriously, campaigning against Asian sweatshops that make high-priced name-brand sneakers and desperate for ways to make their mark on a heedlessly capitalist world.

Peter's girlfriend, Jule (Julia Jentsch), is brought into their nighttime adventures when Peter is away on holiday and he asks Jan to help Jule clean up the apartment she has been evicted from. Jule is €94,000 in debt because she wrote off a Mercedes as an uninsured car, and the owner, a man named Hardenberg, sued her.

Jan and Jule share a growing attraction to each other, and when he shows her how he cases the mansions, they discover they're near the street where the Mercedes owner lives, and they break in. Caught up in the adrenalin rush of their escapade, however, they're caught unawares when Hardenberg (Burghart Klaubner) shows up.

They call Peter to help and the three decide to kidnap the man and take him to Jule's uncle's empty cabin in the mountains. All of this is depicted with great flair and invention and played with pleasing naturalness and charm by the trio of young actors.

Once they are in the mountains, Weingartner and co-writer Katharina Held make their boldest step and carry it off with superb aplomb. As the triangle becomes more testing and the situation more criminal, Hardenberg turns out to be not quite the capitalist pig he appears. Well, he is, but he wasn't always, at least so he claims. He was a member of the SDS in 1968, he says, living in a commune with his wife and four others, with demonstrations, long hair, free love and the whole damned thing. Here, Klaubner matches the youngsters with his assured performance.

Sustaining the logic of the plot brilliantly, the film contrives to play the boys against each other and the girl, and the rich man against the rest in scenes that are highly entertaining and satisfying.

"Edukators" has the fresh breath of originality that makes going to the movies a pleasure.


A Y3 Film (Germany) co-production with Co-op99 (Austria) in collaboration with Sudwestrundfunk (SWR).


Director: Hans Weingartner

Screenplay: Katharina Held, Hans Weingartner

Producers: Hans Weingartner, Antonin Svoboda

Cinematography: Matthias Schellenberg, Daniela Knapp

Production design: Christian M. Goldbeck

Editing: Dirk Oetelshoven, Andreas Wodraschke

Sound: Stefan Soltau

Costumes and makeup: Silvia Pernegger

Music: Andreas Wodraschke


Jan: Daniel Bruhl

Jule: Julia Jentsch

Peter: Stipe Erceg

Hardenberg: Burghart Klaubner

No MPAA rating

Running time -- 126 minutes

See also

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