Saturday, 23 February 2008

GFF Review: Four Minutes - by Robert Duffin

Director: Chris Kraus
Screenwriter: Chris Kraus
Running Time: 112 mins
Certificate: 12

When introducing the film at the GFT, festival co-director Alan Hunter told us that Variety had described Four Minutes as Shine meets Prisoner Cell Block H, but he believed it to be classier than that. Thankfully he was correct, and Variety was wrong. The film is set in an all women’s prison just outside Berlin where bad-tempered spinster Ms Kruger (Monica Bleibtreu) has been teaching inmates to play the piano for years. She then encounters the bitter nihilist Jenny (Hannah Herzsprung) whose troubled upbringing is threatening to sabotage her savant like musical genius. Together the two polar opposite women agree to disagree and attempt to win competitions.

The narrative arc is a little over familiar, but the strength of the performances, both acting and musical, makes this an exceptionally powerful drama. Herzsprung in particular deserves plaudits for her feral Jenny, and her piano performances, including once scene where she plays a rousing number with her hands handcuffed behind her back. Bleibtreu too is wonderful as the spinster with a secret past. The octogenarian has outlived the Nazis and seen the face of Germany change, leaving her lost in a new world with only music to cling to. The chemistry between the two leads is first-rate, especially in the lighter moments, such as when poor forward planning results in them swapping outfits at a recital. Ultimately though it boils down to those final four minutes, and a performance that will send you out the theatre on a wave of euphoria. It has a March release date, so look out for it if it opens near you.

Check out the cuffed piano playing...

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