Anatomy of a precarious closeness
by Bénédicte Prot
11/06/2009 - After her multiple award-winning The Forest for the Trees, which describes how a teacher recently arrived in the city gradually loses her familiar bearings, in Everyone Else [trailer, film focus], the second feature by young director Maren Ade (32), we rediscover her subtle attention to the psychological and interpersonal mechanisms of everyday life, which won over the jury at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival, earning the Grand Prize (ex aequo) and the Silver Bear for Best Actress.
This linear film centres on a German couple: nice but nonchalant Chris (Lars Eidinger) and explosive Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr). On holiday in Sardinia, they either spend their time alone or in the company of a couple of friends, Hans and Sana, whose rather too-perfect relationship naturally inspires different perceptions of their own union.
The scenes unfold one to the sound of cicadas, sometimes revealing the couple’s harmony (such as when they make a little figure called Schnappi out of ginger, when they fool around and conspire against the invasive Hans...) but often betraying their disagreements and frustrations (an early scene where Chris almost throws Gitti out of the bed, the moments when he grows tired of her fooling around and the evening when he leaves her to go and get drunk with Hans).
Ade’s slow-paced film – shot over long days of meticulous work – paints the portrait of a typical couple in which viewers will recognise familiar elements, and captures in the utmost detail all the shades of their precarious closeness by imbuing the work with a growing sense of each partner’s profound and irrevocable otherness. This feeling is heightened by the arrival of the other couple, with the presence of outsiders that lead Gitti and Chris to don different masks, thus increasing the conflict between them: she becomes the outcast of the group, then the good hostess, while he is the overly affable friend who goes as far as making fun of Gitti and his own mother in order to amuse their friends.
Beneath the dominant climate of confrontation lies an essential and classic motif: faced with Chris’ lack of consideration, his indecisiveness and cowardice when it comes to responding to her declarations of love, Gitti is rather too insistent, often irritating and sometimes slightly hysterical, with the result that she alienates him even further instead of becoming closer to him. Until he finally makes the declaration she demands, which is immediately followed by her withdrawal.
The film thus reaches its critical point in the final "scenes" (in the literal and figurative sense), orchestrated by Gitti who, despite her efforts throughout the film, has never made such a spectacle of herself, but at the same time regains some control over her relationship with Chris.
In her second film, Ade shows that she has created her own language, one that is rich but subtle and made up of countless pertinent observations about human psychology. A language that unites the characters despite all their disagreements. For in the end, the two of them, whether they like it or not, form an entity with its own codes and idiosyncrasies, a world to which only they have the key.