At first glance, the characters who populate Frauke Finsterwalder’s award-winning, feature-length debut don’t have much in common. Claude is a lonely pedicurist with a fetish for his clients’ feet, and Tom is the burly traffic cop who pulls Claude over and who walks the streets in a polar bear suit during his hours off. Witness the Sandbergs, a wealthy couple boycotting German-manufactured cars on a road trip to Paris, and Maximilian, the couple’s teenage son who, while on a prep school field trip to a local concentration camp, displays zero patience for reverence. Yet despite the motley nature of Finsterwalder’s ensemble cast, her film’s tone is consistently sinister. Finsterworld presents a contemporary Germany darkened by history’s shadow. Over half a century removed from the Holocaust, the country still has “no role models [other than Adolf Hitler]” remarks one wise and ultimately doomed member of Maximilian’s class and Germany’s newest generation. Citizens are as detached from their past as they are stifled by it. Existentialist angst reins supreme, and no one feels comfortable in his own skin, sometimes literally. Absurdist at times, allegorical at others, Finsterworld asks how we can relate to those around us when our strongest bond is our detachment from our surroundings. —Zoe Pollak
w/English Subtitle
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