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LFF 2020 Review: Undine – “Well-crafted”

Undine is a German-language film set in Berlin and the neighbouring countryside. Setting out as a modern fairy tale, Undine falls in love with a man after being dumped by her ex in the first 5 minutes of the film. Unbeknownst to her new boyfriend, she is a type of water spirit and the magic oaths she has to live by are strict and unforgiving. The romance between Undine and her new man Christoph forms the bulk of the film, while the magical elements are kept out of the way resulting in a lovely if insipid film.

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Undine and Christoph are portrayed by Paula Beer and Franz Rogowski respectively, the seasoned actors are warm and affectionate and their romance builds believably. Christoph is a love-sick puppy in most scenes, while Undine maintains her allure while hiding her secrets. Meeting at a museum where Undine works as a historian providing guided tours on the changing landscape of Berlin from the Second World War to the present, we’re treated to hearing her speak at length – by far the most she ever speaks on-screen. It is an interesting tour, but it further exemplifies the mundanity the film seems to be going for. Hints of magic are rare and matter-of-fact, like a terribly realistic version of The Shape of Water.

The film is well-crafted, Director (and writer) Christian Petzold carries us through the film with a steady hand. To be sure, any amateur director would have lost your interest in this film ages ago, so it tantalisingly pulls you in without delivering anything truly supernatural. Had the film dived into this a little more it could have been more interesting, but Petzold is not interested in that, rather focusing on this tragic romance. Undine, for all its charming actors and direction, which is bold in its assuredness you will be moved but ultimately unfulfilled.

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