(Edinburgh International Film Festival)
German feature Jerichow made its UK debut at 2009’s Edinburgh International Film Festival on 19 June, and is arguably more appealing and straightforwardly enjoyable than many of the more high-profile premieres screened there so far.
Benno Furmann plays brooding ex-soldier Thomas, deep in debt and with few prospects, who moves into his mother’s country house after her death. A silent loner with a seemingly good heart, an act of good samaritanism lands him a job driving neighbouring snack bar tycoon Ali (whose drinking has lost him his license).
Loading the van at his boss’s house, Thomas is instantly attracted to Ali’s glamorous wife Laura (Nina Hoss). Although broadly suspicious about his wife’s loyalty circumstances force Ali to take a trip out of town, giving Thomas and Laura the opportunity to develop their relationship and make dramatic plans.
Thomas’s silent treatment of his boss, and accelerated relationship with Laura, are pure film noir, but their lack of realism is countered by restrained performances from all three leads. The result is a compelling sense of foreboding which builds convincingly as the plot develops.
Although the love triangle at the heart of the film is nothing new, the dark tone and mounting tension keep the viewer engaged to its far from shocking conclusion, and make Jerichow (named for the town where the action takes place) a far more persuasive movie than it should be.