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Henrike von Kuick
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The local cinematheque was host last night to the Austrian director Hans Weingartner, the author of the lovely film '303', who after the projection entertained a dialog with the film critic Yael Shuv. '303' is a movie of a kind that is not much made today - a romantic 'feel good' movie that also tells many smart things about the world around us, a movie about and with young people who are neither drugged, neither extremists, nor fallen into misery or crime, a combination between a 'road movie' in the style that Wim Wenders was making 40 years ago and romantic films like Arthur Hiller's 'Love Story' based upon Erich Segal's novel that delighted the generations that were young at about the same time.
At first it seems that we are dealing with the usual 'boy meets girl' recipe. The film's heroes are two young Germans who meet by chance and decide to go together on a trip from Germany to Portugal in a 30-year-old caravan. It's one of the 'retro' elements of the movie, there are a few more, but the truly 'retro' stuff is the relationship that emerges between them. The boy belongs to the category of those who are not able to maintain a relationship for more than a few months. The girl is in the middle of the complete disintegration of her previous relationship and on top of this, she is also pregnant and undecided whether or not to keep the baby. Both of them are students, intellectuals in making, and they talk a lot, enormously, theorizing everything from politics and ecology to their attitudes toward love and the hormonal analysis of caressing and kissing. Verbosity slows down their getting close, and as tension accumulates between them and in the minds of the audience, dialogues play the role of prelude (Yael Shuv used the term foreplay) to the love affair between the two. Intelligently, director Hans Weingartner focuses most of the time on the two heroes and the caravan that carries them from the north to the south of Europe. The surrounding landscapes almost do not exist, when filmed they are practically deserted, only the two characters, the boy and the girl count. It's a 'road movie' where the important road is the way the two of them progress in their relation.
I liked the two characters, and the way the interaction between them is described on screen. The director and the actors Mala Emde and Anton Spieker manage to create empathy between heroes and spectators. Hans Weingartner told the audience at the discussion after the screening that the actors were let very little freedom to improvise, being asked to strictly follow the written text for most of the time. That also means that the script is well built, and the actors have achieved remarkable performances, giving autenticity to a text that is not at all trivial or easy. The film is optimistic without being sweet. As long as there are young people who are discussing with the same seriousness and passion about the planet's problems and about kisses, and as long as there are directors who know how to make movies where a love story can create thrill just like an action movie, there is still hope. I mentioned 'Love Story' that I saw almost half a century ago. I do not remember many details, I have not seen the movie since then, but I remember my personal identification with the heroes. I had a similar sensation yesterday watching '303', although I'm now at a very different age than the characters.
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