Berlinale Bloggers 2022
A revolution of romantic comedy
A sentimental film with the hard-to-pronounce title “A E I O U – Das schnelle Alphabet der Liebe” features in the Competition section at the Berlinale. It’s another film about romantic relationships in which the power balance leans more towards the woman – simply because she’s considerably older than the man.
By Egor Moskwitin
The social and intimate life of older people has been a subject of fascination at film festivals for some considerable time, and the Berlinale is possibly more interested in this than all the others. In 2018 they screened The Real Estate here, a Swedish comedy about the libido of an aging businesswoman.
One of the most outrageous films in this set of topics at Berlin this year is Rimini by Ulrich Seidel, a drama about an aged, unsuccessful singer who tries to numb his pain by having sex with people his own age. As is so often the case, this film depicts a tragedy – but recently old age has also become a focus in romantic comedies. Away from the Berlinale, films on this topic include Oscar nominee Licorice Pizza by Paul Thomas Anderson, in which a 15-year-old schoolboy makes romantic advances at a 28-year-old woman. The film Cha Cha Real Smooth won the audience prize at the US Sundance Festival. It’s about a young college graduate who falls for an adult woman with a child. The emotive comedy Good luck to you was screened at the Sundance Festival as well as featuring at Berlin. In this film, Emma Thompson plays a retired teacher who manages to experience sexual liberation with the assistance of a young lover.
But the most shocking and unsettling film in this sizeable collection is A E I O U – Das schnelle Alphabet der Liebe (AEIOU – A Quick Alphabet of Love) by German director Nicolette Krebitz. Considering her previous film Wild (2016), which told the story of a woman’s increasingly intense relationship with a wolf, it was clear that conventional love stories were not her thing. And neither would you expect straightforward films from Komplizen Film, a production company created by Maren Ade and Janine Jackowski.
Anna, played by stand-out actress Sophie Rois, is an older film star – nowadays she’s only wanted for sound recording and radio work. One day she takes a part-time job: she’ll be giving elocution lessons to a shy young drama student named Adrian (Milan Herms). At their first meeting it turns out that the young man is none other than the thief who recently stole Anna’s handbag in the street. Despite this, she doesn’t hand the matter over to the police and instead begins a beautiful and painful relationship with him, observed with concern by her neighbour, a friend around her own age (played by Udo Kier in a role that’s uncharacteristically comical for him).
In a similar storyline to the film Undine by Christian Petzold, which was screened at the Berlinale in 2020, the couple’s love develops into a force that magically transforms their entire surroundings. The doors in Anna’s house suddenly start slamming – the ghost of her deceased husband is gathering up his things. Two restless birds build a nest under the eaves of their home. The two lovers Anna and Adrian run naked along the waterfront promenade in the city of Nice. And the police – hunting for suspected jewellery thieves after a robbery – are probably as necessary to this fairy tale as the big bad wolf in Little Red Riding Hood: to experiment with emotions and bring the main characters out of their dreamworld and back into a rational space.
Joseph Brodsky, the Russian-American poet and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote: “Love, as an act, lacks a verb.” Krebitz has not only dispensed with parts of speech, but with consonants as well. As a result, emphasis acquires meaning too. That just leaves the vowels: the strings of the soul. Nicolette Krebitz plays them very skilfully.