By Aldo Padilla
Romantic comedies’ codes are a complete leap of faith. They usually start with some of its basic premises, like love at first sight, and with an almost instantaneous correspondence, despite the circumstances that surround each person. In general, picturesque sceneries are preferable for the development of love: it can be an office, or a slaughterhouse (like last year’s winner of the Golden bear On Body and Soul) This year, Thomas Stuber’s In the Aisles takes this genre to the aisles of a supermarket, where an employee with a dark past learns about his trade with different tricks and nuances.
Stuber’s film has all the elements of these kinds of films: an instant love, a spiritual guide, ghosts of the past that return to haunt the protagonist, and a spiral of self-destruction when confronting failure. But despite these topics, there are little but truly genius moments of redemption, always lead by a remarkable lead (Franz Rogowski), whose routine seems like a cure of the traumas he deals with, traumas reflected in multiple tattoos in his body.
Beyond the details that make this film almost conventional, the tonal changes move it far away from clichés; the film takes a depressive tone that allows to understand the internal struggle of the lead character, not only in front of the impossibility of his love, but also the doubts about his life choice. This is all destined to end in a beautiful shot that redeems many fissures of a script that isn’t always coherent.
The film is framed by the constant idea of fulfillment, even in situations that seem to be limiting, and also the idea that it is possible to build a world of freedom in the little details. The routine of a huge supermarket can condemn the ones who see it as a sentence, but there lies a chance of individual redemption, according to the struggle and inner love of its lead.
Italian filmmaker Laura Bispuri builds a micro universe in the south of Italy, surrounded with a desert landscape that gives her film a western-like look, especially in the fight between mothers that happen in the film. Figlia Mia poses the recurrent theme of family bloodline, reflected in the story of a child who discovers her biological mother, a woman completely different to her adoptive mother. In one side, the Alba’s Rohrwacher’s character is defined by a chaotic and libertine life, with an avalanche of debts that doesn’t deter her from an intense for of living. This is contrasted with the other mother, with a strong Catholic tendency and a debilitating work that stops her from spending more time with her daughter, whose life is defined by order and obedience, something that will change at the arrival of the biological mother.
There’s a discourse in the film which poses that eventually we’ll end up as our parents, disregarding our upbringing. The strength of blood that’s not only defined by the affective union with our parents (something that is portrayed perfectly in the Japanese film Like Father, Like Son) but also in the personality we carry in our genes. Bispuri, despite posing some nuances in this confrontation between mothers, distorts the main ideas of the film and carry it to the terrain of degradation and morbidity, especially when the adoptive mother seems to confront the situation from a place of obsession and possession, and not the love of many years with her child.
The force in these films lies in an aesthetic and atmosphere that reminds us of Alice Rohrwacher’s cinema, and specially the great chemistry between the three leads, something that indicates the result of the filmmaker’s feminine sensitivity. This is reflected in a musical moment, possibly one of the best of the festival, with Alba Rohrwacher’s character dancing with her daughter to the rhythm of classic Italian pop. The complicity of all the elements in this moment reflect the great work of the filmmaker and elevate the film a lot, despite the posterior low blows.
In the aisles
Director: Thomas Stuber
Script: Clemens Meyer, Thomas Stuber
Cinematography: Peter Matjasko
Editing: Kaya Inan
Producers: Jochen Laube, Fabian Maubach
Rotor Film, Potsdam, Departures Film, Leipzig
Director: Laura Bispuri
Script: Francesca Manieri, Laura Bispuri
Cinematography: Vladan Radovic
Editing: Carlotta Cristiani
Music: Nando Di Cosimo
Producers: Marta Donzelli, Gregorio Paonessa, Maurizio Totti, Alessandro Usai, Michael Weber, Viola Fügen, Dan Wechsler
Italy, Germany, Switzerland, 2018