Berlinale Bloggers 2022 A film about the biggest taboo
Isabelle Stever’s Berlinale entry, “Grand Jeté”, is a film about a subject that is offensive, even taboo, to people all over the world: incest – in this case, between mother and son.
By Lucia Conti
Nadja is a ballerina whose body bears the marks, almost stigmata, of her obsession with dance. Emotionally anorexic, ravaged by her own inability to communicate as well as by all the hard training, she never had a close rapport with her son, who was raised by his grandmother. But when she makes up her mind to get to know him better, they grow increasingly close and surprisingly intimate.
Nadja and Mario eventually strike a balance that many a viewer may find disturbing, even upsetting, but it accords with the two protagonists’ underlying dysfunctionality. They explore each other – in spaces in which all human warmth seems to have been banished and silence prevails. And in this silence, they perhaps understand each other. They don't worry about what is unfolding between them or that they might be discovered.
A new and unsettling casualness
Nadja loosens up thanks to her new relationship with her son. She lets down her hair, which is usually kept scrupulously tied up in a bun under the glare of the lights in the rehearsal room. Her face manages to smile and, albeit almost imperceptibly, even cry. Her wracked body overcomes its chronic pain, nourished by feelings, even real meals – if only in small bites. These are small steps forwards, not dance steps, but moving towards life.
Mario, on the other hand, is portrayed as his mother's submissive enabler, enabling her to evolve, and all but reduced to this function. Silent, slightly melancholy, he goes along with events as they unfold without questioning them, just as the film asks no questions and provides no explanations. The director refuses to pass judgment, leaving to the viewer the difficult task of processing a difficult story – and its even more problematic ending.