Love by substitution in Above Us Only Sky
by Bénédicte Prot
15/02/2011 - Above Us Only Sky [trailer], the debut feature by 34-year-old Jan Schomburg (who did his training in Cologne and Warsaw) was presented at Berlin in the Panorama Special section. Produced by Pandora, it centres on a strange encounter, an unusual love that develops insidiously between Martha, a confused young widow (subtly played by Sandra Hüller, the award-winning star of Requiem [trailer, film focus]), and a university lecturer (played by Viennese thesp Georg Friedrich, known for his role in Import / Export [trailer]) who reminds her uncannily of her husband, recently found dead by suicide in a car park in Marseilles, where the couple were about to settle down.
The start of the film rather unoriginally depicts (through large close-ups of the kisses exchanged between the sheets and small moments of daily life) marital happiness, or at least that experienced by Martha, who senses something isn’t right but is far from imagining what is brewing. But this is undoubtedly a necessary part of the film, for we better understand her distress when the bubble in which she lives unexpectedly bursts, especially as while still in shock at the news of the suicide, she realises that her husband was lying to her about how he spent his days, about what he was.
As the latter has left nothing behind him enabling her to understand, she starts to wander around, bewildered, at the university where he was supposed to work. In seeking the truth, she embraces another illusion by superimposing another man, also disappointed by his love life, onto the memories of her marital life.
We understand Martha’s anger when someone explains to her that love is "fascist" and imposes its prism on to the person we’ve chosen to love: she feels like she’s been caught in the act. However, this "love" born of blindness, which gives rise to unique situations and dialogues (precisely because they arise from a duality, like the love itself), slowly takes flight and ends up revealing itself when Friedrich’s character understands the game played without his knowing, and how to change its rules.
By showing how Martha copes with mourning by refusing to mourn, Above Us Only Sky poses a very intriguing question – that is, the possibility of transforming one love into another that is just as real... so long as the first one was.
(Translated from French)