Dir. Maren Ade
(2010, Not Rated, 118 min)
★ ★ ★ ½

Chris and Gitti (Lars Eidinger and Birgit Minichmayr) are deeply in love unless they give it a moment’s thought. Everyone Else is about those moments of thought. Chris is an architect, deeply insecure, who asks early on whether Gitti considers him masculine. She doesn’t seem to care; not long before she was playfully painting his face with cosmetics. But he cares very much. His career is stagnant, he’s indecisive; beginning to wonder whether he’s man enough, he treats Gitti more and more coldly. She comes to represent for him a force of emasculation.

Director Maren Ade

Gitti is an unconventional woman, but not nearly as unconventional as Chris makes her feel. His niece doesn’t like Gitti, prompting Gitti to play an inappropriate little game where she makes the niece pretend to shoot her dead, but that’s about as bad as it gets. Nevertheless, Chris wishes she were more like Sana (Nicole Marischka), the wife of his colleague Hans (Hans-Jochen Wagner). For that matter, Chris wishes he were more like Hans: an alpha male, professionally successful, with a woman who defers to him.

Writer-director Maren Ade approaches her story with subtle observation, never insists, and relies heavily on her actors for her effect. She relies especially on Minichmayr, who conveys profound alienation with small glances and body language. Gitti buys a dress she doesn’t like, but she wears it anyway because it makes her look like the kind of woman Chris wants: feminine, demure, submissive. The actress is at her best in a late party scene where Chris and Gitti host Hans and Sana, bringing all her resentments to the fore. Chris is clearly competing with Hans, mimicking his behavior, and at one moment, when Hans and Sana are belittling Chris’s mother’s music collection, the camera shows Chris and Gitti apart, silent, disconnected. There may as well be miles between them.

The film feels slow in the first half, full of minor scenes of uncertain import, but it becomes more and more involving the better we get to know Chris and Gitti. We become literate in their unspoken language and begin to read them more clearly, until we understand — and they seem to understand it too, deep down — that they want fundamentally different things. The film’s very last scene (which I won’t spoil) is its most problematic, but that’s not to say it doesn’t work, per se. I’m simply unsure how Ade means it to work. She points to one resolution and then seems to suggest the opposite, and when the credits roll we’re not sure what, if anything, has been decided. Fickle young lovers — as confounding to us as they are to each other.

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