Thankful for World Cinema: Two Lives (2012)

Posted on November 21, 2013


Two Lives (2012, IFC/Sundance Selects)

Introduction

For an introduction to the concept of Thankful for World Cinema please go here.

Two Lives

Sometimes it takes a bit of distance temporally in order to discuss things in cinematic terms. About a generation after the fall of the Berlin Wall it seems more tales about the days of a divided Germany, as told in a unified one, are becoming more frequent. In this tale a simple request from a lawyer for statements in a proceeding about the Lebensborn children sets of a domino effect leading many family secrets to come to the fore.

In another trend that’s becoming more and more prevalent in a globalized world, it is a multicultural tale as the lead, Katrine (Juliane Köhler) and her family live in Norway. The legal proceedings being in a European court are held in English.

The film begins with a frame that quickly is closed up and establishes character and intrigue and there are plenty of both to follow. Throughout the film the use of flashbacks are significant while not being excessive. Images that don’t quite register at first are revisited with more context or footage later at the right moment for blanks to be properly filled in.

Due to the nature of the tale as there are a few different timeframes represented there good use of makeup. There are also interesting visual techniques such as different “film stock” photographic effects for older footage to add to the visual intrigue; aside from the great lighting and framing of shots throughout.

Köhler’s performance is of course key, but it is through the supporting cast that the power of this film really comes through. Most notably appearing in this film is living legend Liv Ullmann. This may be the first time I’ve witnessed her working in her native tongue (Norwegian), and, she is as captivating and as spot-on as she’s ever been. Sven Nordin as Katrine’s husband Bjarte plays a deceptively sensitive man quite astutely. Admirers of The White Ribbon may also recognize Rainer Bock.

As secrets unravel in this film, there are two kinds of suspense being employed in equal measure for double the effect that many films would have. Thus, tropes and relationships from two disparate kinds of films are brought together here in perfect unison with great aplomb.

Two Lives is the kind of film that gets some of its bigger surprises out of the way (at least hinted at) fairly soon but has quite a few of them throughout. Even if you are the type adept at, or who enjoys, guessing what will happen next; the drama in the film will still keep you glued to the edge of your seat. The execution of this film from all production departments is great.

8/10

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