Director: Thomas Durchschlag

Germany 2004. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 89 min.

An admirably direct study of mental illness, writer-director Thomas Durchschlag’s debut feature follows the deterioration of a high-strung young woman whose manic promiscuity and chemical intake appear to have been emitted from a volcano of self-destructive self-loathing. Pretty but thin and nervous as a greyhound, Maria (Lavinia Wilson) works at a university library by day. By night she roams the club scene, picking up guys for sex, then leaving them in the middle of the night. Her obvious substance abuse and low self-esteem dawn very slowly on Jan (Maximilian Bruckner), a genuinely nice visiting graduate student who is smitten with Maria. Her neediness and impulsiveness that at first seem endearing grow less so as her irrational mood swings, paranoia and unreasonable demands begin to dominate their relationship. The extent of Maria’s illness is revealed by present-tense behaviour rather than verbal explanation, a tactic that works well. Very focused performances, screenplay and coolly efficient design all bring queasy credibility to a theme that might easily have descended into scenery-chewing theatrics, or Looking for Mr. Goodbar-style moralising.

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