Monday, November 18, 2013

I Confess

I am Guilty (2005) - Hochhäusler
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Fragmented, distant and elliptical, Hochhäusler's I am Guilty aka Falscher Bekenner (False Confessor) is a deeply disturbing film that stays with you for a long time after viewing. It tells a story of Armin (Constantin Von Jascheroff), an aimless teen from a middle-class household, who might be a terrorist in the making. He seems to be into mechanics and has a fascination for mechanical objects but not much else. Being a third son in a German household, therefore exempt from the mandatory military service isn't really helping him to get a headstart in life by any means. Because his concerned parents' constant nagging, Armin goes to job interviews only to get rejected, one after another. He lacks enthusiasm, focus, social skills, qualification...everything. The interviewers absurd questions and methods are as troubling as Armin's withdrawal. There is no discernible human quality to the process.

The film keeps things as lucid as possible. Did Armin actually committed the arson in his neighborhood? Is he engaging in some dark sexual activities in the public bathroom at night? The thing is, because of Hochhäusler's precise, impeccable direction, you can't dismiss the boy's lethargic behavior as shallow characterization. His troubled inner life, however hidden, beckons more of your attention.

Hochhäusler, a former critic turned filmmaker, says that this loss of identity theme in his as well as many other films of the Berlin School is not particularly limited to reflect the post-Wall German society. He sites that many of these German compatriots see themselves as cosmopolitan and get their influences from filmmakers from other parts of the world. With that in mind I feel there is an unspoken fraternity with Armin and all the young protagonists on the periphery of society with identity problems in so-called 'skipped generation' of wayward youth films around the world (films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Gus Van Sant and current Greek cinema immediately come to mind).

I am Guilty plays part of MoMA Film Series The Berlin School: Films from the Berliner Schule Nov.20 through Dec.6. Please visit MoMA website for details.

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