Longing

Deceptively minimal, as if anticipated sequences were excised from the final cut, Valeska Grisebach's magnificent and moving chamber drama is a roaring mouse that offers ample room for extrapolation though its episodic editing, with Dardenne-style observations so astute that typically inexpressible passions and angst become raw and visible. In a tranquil village outside Berlin, reticent metalworker and volunteer fireman Markus (Andreas Müller) saves a couple from a car crash, not realizing that theirs was a lovers' suicide pact. Later, still burdened by the question of whether he tampered with fate, Markus leaves behind his adorable wife Ella (Ilka Welz) for an out-of-town convention, where he gets smashed at a work party and sways alone on the dance floor—embarrassingly, vulnerably, poignantly—to Robbie Williams's "Feel." In a blink, he wakes up in the bed of cute waitress Rose (Anett Dornbusch), unsure if they slept together, but either way hooked. Cast with nonprofessionals and marvelously shot with a mix of doc shakiness and painterly stillness, Longing bends the standard tale of love-triangle infidelity, with both wife and adulteress so alike in personality and demeanor that Markus has no reason to choose. As he moves toward the bittersweet "lady or the tiger" conclusion with guilt and desire tugging at his soul, Markus's decision is given a bold new perspective in a decidedly metaphysical epilogue, not so much a plot twist as an emotional gotcha.

 
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