Before Tom Tykwer created international hit "Run Lola Run" (or "Lola Rennt"), he created the ponderous "Winter Sleepers" (or "Winterschläfer"). Like Tykwer's later films, this one deals with fate, destiny, death, and love. It's an interesting execution, with a flawed climax and the occasional question of "where is this going?"
Laura (Marie-Lou Sellem) arrives at her little country cottage, where her pretty friend Rebecca (Floriane Daniel) lives. Things are complicated after the first evening: while handsome but loutish Marco (Heino Ferch) is in bed with Rebecca, a strange man (Ulrich Matthes) wanders over and takes Marco's car. But when he is driving, he causes an accident that puts a child in a life-threatening coma.
The child's father (Josef Bierbichler), stricken with grief, goes on the hunt for the man who accidently killed his daughter. That man, Rene, is now in love with Laura, but can't remember anything about the accident. Rene is also inadvertantly causing cracks in Laura and Marco's fragile, tempestuous relationship. One person will die -- two will find happiness -- and one will find freedom.
"Winter Sleepers" has a lot of the same themes and feel of Tykwer's later films, but more unpolished and loosely knit together. Though we know the fates of all these people are interconnected, much of the screen time is devoted to Laura and Rene's blossoming romance, or Marco and Rebecca's deteriorating one, and not to the central theme of the movie.
The cinematography is breathtaking, with a lot of Tykwer's signatures like a camera panning in a complete circle around Rene, and a character death never being shown except by a thud and darkness. As he often does, Tykwer filmed many scenes in a portentous manner, as if every tiny event could start off something important. Perhaps the biggest problem is the conclusion. While beautifully filmed, it seems out-of-character and a bit of an easy way out, as if Tykwer wasn't entirely sure how to end the various interconnected storylines.
One thing that Tykwer does well is give humanity in subtle ways to the characters, even the stupid, cheating Marco, who is genuinely miserable and guilt-stricken after his girlfriend falls off a ledge. Matthes is instantly sympathetic as the sensitive, memory-impaired Rene. Daniel and Sellem are quite nice in their roles as, respectively, the sexpot and the quiet wannabe-actress nurse.
"Winter Sleepers" lacks the tightness and focus of Tykwer's later films, though his good directing style is still present. However, those looking for an interesting philosophical drama/romance might want to check it out.
on 20 March 2008
I really enjoyed Winter Sleepers, it's a bit strange because of the quirky characters who are rather loosely connected in a slightly rambling plot, but as a whole the film is very entertaining and satisfying. Heino Ferch (Speer in the film Downfall) excels as a completely heartless philanderer, also Ulrich Matthes (Goebbels in Downfall) is great as a weird but very appealing main character. Look out for the way the main female character seems always to be enveloped by the colour red... A sleepy mountain town in the Bavarian Alps is the perfect setting for this dreamy, meandering but compelling piece of German drama.