Thursday, June 18, 2009

Vier Minuten (2006) AKA Four Minutes

Herzsprung makes the screen tremble.

Four Minutes recalls the lineage of films dedicated to marginalized characters who find solace in piano playing, such as Jane Campion’s The Piano, yet there is more to this drama than the story of a woman yearning for autonomy. Jenny (Hannah Herzsprung), a prisoner described as the type to "steal a smoke from a corpse" by another inmate, is wasting away in a German penitentiary until she is recruited by piano teacher, Traude Krüger (Monica Bleibtrau), to train for a contest coming up. Krüger, who sees Jenny’s fingers keying organ music on her church pew in Sunday mass, realizes Jenny’s innate talent and slowly heals her student through music as well as through conversations revealing their mutually difficult pasts. While Jenny’s violent outbursts continuously disrupt her piano privileges, Traude heroically defends Jenny in meetings with the hard-edged warden, Mr. Meyerbeer (Stefan Kurt). The crux of the story lies in the friendship forged between these women through Traude’s determination to heal her young prodigy. Through flashback, the viewer learns what male violence was inflicted upon each lady. Four Minutes, subtitled from German, is a bit humorless, and one doesn’t glimpse even a slight smile on any character’s face until fifty minutes of film have rolled. Jenny’s outbursts at the piano as well, such as when she plays handcuffed to defy Meyerbeer, are overwrought. Still, the lack of sentimentality inherent to each character lends a wry realism to the intelligent script, such as when Ms. Krüger tells Jenny to stop playing "negro music," exposing her antiquated, uptight musical taste. Four Minutes succeeds at illustrating a relationship in which two women cut from different cloth share commonalities that assume a female essence, though at their core they crave a universal desire for freedom. --Trinie Dalton

About the Director
Director Chris Kraus is considered one of the most captivating young filmmakers in Germany. His debut Shattered Glass was the year 2002 s revelation, winning two Bavarian Film Awards, the German Screenplay Award, the German Award for Best Photography, the Golden Camera Award for lead actor Jürgen Vogel and the New Talent Award for best directorial effort.

Chris Kraus also wrote several screenplays for German celebrity directors like Detlev Buck ( LiebesLuder Bundle of Joy ) and worked for Academy Award winners Pepe Danquart ( C(r)ook ) and Volker Schlöndorff ( The Tin Drum II ). His screenplays have garnered numerous awards.

Vier Minuten - Trailer - Chris Kraus (2006)

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