BFI London Film Festival 2011: ‘Dreileben 1: Beats Being Dead’

Conceived from an extended email discussion on the current state of German cinema, the Dreileben trilogy brings together three of the nations finest filmmakers – Christian Petzold, Dominik Graf and Christoph Hochhäusler – each bringing their own unique style of storytelling to the individual chapters. The ‘Dreileben’ of the title is a small fictional German town, surrounded by dense forest, where a number of events transpire after the escape of a convicted child molester from a secure hospital, highlighted in Dreileben 1: Beats Being Dead (2011).

Petzold’s contribution to the trilogy is a sharply-shot, well-paced character drama as young hospital intern Johannes (Jacob Matschenz) falls for enigmatic Bosnian immigrant Ana (Luna Mijovic), whom he meets at a petrol station (moments before being punched in the face by her biker boyfriend). Their early relationship is tentative yet tender, with Ana eventually moving out from her mother’s flat and in with her new lover.

Parallel to this (yet less prominent than in the consequent two Dreileben entries) is the escape of the deranged sex offender Molesch (Stefan Kurt), which was partly down to Johannes’ own inexperience. The release of Molesch spreads an air of menace and potential danger across the community, as formerly carefree journeys through the town’s wooded paths become potentially life-threatening scenarios for every character.

A number of Friday the 13th-esque POV shots through the molester’s eyes help to crank up the tension, yet it is Johannes’ infatuation with old flame Sarah (Vijessna Ferkic) – the doctor’s beautiful daughter – that provides the real threat to his and Ana’s relationship.

Emotions run high at a climactic party as Johannes makes his choice between Ana and Sarah, and Petzold’s playful denouement suggests that the fallout of the film’s shattered love triangle could potentially be more significant than just bruised egos. Easily the most inventive of the three films, Beats Being Dead adds an air of fantasy and magical realism to the trilogy, and is perhaps the most suitable entry to compare to the UK’s Red Riding (2009) trilogy, which many have cited as a possible influence to the project.

For more BFI London Film Festival 2011 coverage, simply follow this link.

Daniel Green