Friday, February 03, 2012

Cracks in the Shell: Grade B


Cracks in the Shell (2011)

Stine Fischer Christensen, Ulrich Noethen, Dagmar Manzel, Christina Drechsler; Co-writer and Director Christian Schwochow. (German and Danish, subtitled).

A neurotic drama student (Christensen) is failing at her craft when she is unexpectedly cast in a lead role by an important director (Noethen). The director puts increasing pressure on her to go deeper into herself and let her emotions out. He also talks her into sleeping with him.

Then we learn that acting is really an emotional escape for the student, who is burdened by taking care of her mentally disabled sister (Drechsler – in an amazing performance) and dealing with the contempt of her angry mother. So the movie becomes a dark psychodrama, which is mirrored on the stage of the dark play the director is making. The student pushes herself beyond her natural limits. She wears her on-stage costume into the subway and tries to pick up men, to release her inhibitions even more. She eventually becomes a sort of zombie, inured even to self-destruction, all of which the director applauds as “genuine” acting. The other actors are not so sure.

Similarities to Black Swan are obvious, but this is not a me-too. As a psychodrama, it is very dark, but too confused to illustrate any clear moral lesson. The main attraction of this movie is the tremendous acting. The range of emotions conveyed is amazing. It is also an instructive film about the craft of acting itself. Not an uplifting film by any means, but well worth seeing.

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