A strange and gloomy Austrian addition to the venerable bittersweet-reunion-of-childhood-friends genre, Falling
features a group of former Mean Girls who gather for the funeral of a beloved teacher. Afterward, the women take off together, cruising around town and hitting up their old haunts–from the high school, where they scribble on the chalkboards, to the Brooklyn Disco, where they drink themselves into oblivion. Director Barbara Albert is expert at mapping the constantly shifting boundary between camaraderie and cattiness as, in scene after scene, the friends joke and snap at each other while discussing their lives. It turns out that most are hiding something: Alex (Ursula Strauss) is addicted to painkillers, Nicole (Gabriela Hegedüs) is a jailbird, Brigitte (Birgit Minichmayr) had been having an affair with the dead teacher. Nina (Nina Proll) doesn’t have a secret, but her face is contorted in psychic pain for nearly the length of the film–we never learn why. For all the heavy issues discussed in
Falling–existentialism, capitalism, the death of idealism–it leaves a surprisingly lightweight impression, perhaps because Albert has difficulty finding a consistent tone: As the characters wander through the countryside, the film’s focus wanders too, sometimes away from the audience’s interest. (Anthology will also screen Albert’s 2003 film,
Free Radicals, June 28 through July 1.)