Review: All Good
by Bénédicte Prot
- LOCARNO 2018: The first feature by Eva Trobisch presents the untenable situation of a woman trying to deny the assault she has suffered by busying herself with everyday life
The more she insists that “she’s fine”, the more convinced we become that Janne (Aenne Schwarz) - whose side we barely leave from the beginning of All Good [+see also:
film profile] right on through to the end - won’t succeed in putting her memories of that fateful night behind her. The first full-length film by German director Eva Trobisch, selected for the Filmmakers of the Present section of the Locarno Film Festival following a world premiere in Munich, which bagged it three prizes, including the FIPRESCI Prize (see our article), is based on the premise that quietly denying traumatic events doesn’t help to remove them from our lives. On the contrary, our attempts to bury these incidents in layers of daily life lead to the insidious corrosion of our everyday lives.
From the outset, Janne isn’t a particularly verbal person. She’s a rather low-key character in a relatively calm relationship, though they have their issues (which she and her partner prefer to resolve in private, without involving those around them). Then, on that fateful night at a get-together for old friends, she relaxes into the evening – she drinks, she dances and, ultimately, she asks the person who accompanies her home if he’d like to come in “for a drink and nothing else”. Naturally (and this is the real tragedy), this isn’t how he interprets her invitation. He insists on something else, she pulls away, (already) trying to dedramatise the situation – as if treating him like an unremarkable man rather than a threat to her well-being will allow her to control reality and stop the situation from sliding towards the inevitable -, but his thirst for gratification wins out. He obtains it within minutes - and in unspectacular fashion - and leaves, as if nothing, or almost nothing, has happened.
The film hinges on this notion of “almost” - on the everydayness that is too perfectly normal to be true and which is admirably conveyed by the script, as well as the restrained directorial approach of Trobisch, and the impeccably modest and minimalist acting of the cast, because in each and every moment of the film, Janne’s dark secret persists in floating to the surface, pushing through the layers of artificial normality: in Janne’s new job, where she is forced to work alongside spineless Martin, her rapist (Hans Löw from Toni Erdmann [+see also:
Q&A: Maren Ade
film profile], more recently seen topping the bill in the Cannes film In My Room [+see also:
interview: Ulrich Köhler
film profile]), in her social life and, crucially, in the very core of her being. Her determination to ignore what has happened slides rapidly into active rejection, a re-writing of the truth ("I don’t want to make a big thing out of it", she tells Martin, who is trying to talk about and downplay his unforgivable deed, a conversation which she just can’t entertain), a lie and an ongoing inner struggle.
She is fighting a losing battle, and yet, in her desperation to bury the reality which is clawing its way back up to the surface, set to assault her for a second time, Janne is even willing to put her relationship on the line. Whichever path she takes (up until the brilliantly terse final scene) inevitably leads her to the same self-destructive impasse. And this is why All Good is more powerful than it first appears: beneath its smooth exterior, and going beyond the despicable acts carried out by the most ordinary human beings (Martin is by no means the only one: he has a female counterpart in the film) which are already unbearable in and of themselves, the film portrays the total untenability of its protagonist’s situation. But, above all, it recreates the torture which Janne must endure, because her situation isn’t only untenable, it is also inescapable. In adopting the understated approach discussed above - as if in imitation of her lead actress - and in pointedly omitting to provide the viewer with explanations or answers, Trobisch places us in the same state of unspeakable paralysis experienced by Janne, who is in the unenviable position of not knowing who she should turn to, or what she should do.
(Translated from French)
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