Tuesday, April 14, 2009

YELLA (Christian Petzold, 2007, Germany) A young battered woman discovers herself drowning in the murky depths of a violent relationship, submerged by riptide emotions that anchor her to a cruel fate. Yella swims from one bad relationship to the next, becoming involved with a slick investor who makes a living by swindling desperate businessman. As she sinks deeper into this morass, her ex-husband stalks her and gains access to the innermost corridors of her life, spiritually raping her by penetrating the only aspect of her life that is her own: her identity. Writer/Director Christian Petzold takes our heroine on a journey that is like a crippled reflection upon the surface tension of a watery tomb, while the whispers of a ghostly wind and the deathly echoes of a crow haunt her consciousness. Petzold uses subtle clues such as open doors, a red shirt, light dancing upon rippling waves, sighing boughs and nervous leaves, to focus on some existential dread that imbues the film with a qualmish energy. While interesting, the plot thickens and practically grinds to a halt, while the acting remains idle and one-dimensional with the triptych of characters uninteresting and detached. Yella remains vaguely defined so it becomes difficult to connect empathetically with her situation, and she becomes just another woman who makes a stupid mistake: Petzold needed a preamble to introduce us to this vibrant woman before the tragedy to lay groundwork of humanization. Unfortunately, we’re left with a vaguely interesting story whose surprise ending carries no emotional weight, and we feel cheated that our 90-minute investment delivers a dwindling return. Yella is about choices but you’ve seen this film before: choose something else. (C-)

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