Director: Tom Tykwer

With the success of his latest film, Run Lola Run, Tom Tykwer has become one of the hottest European directors. He is from a new breed of German film-makers who, unlike their counterparts for the 70s (Fassbinder, Herzog, Wenders, et al), have managed to achieve popular success as well as critical recognition. Tykwer’s triumph has to do with an ability to combine elements from the European art movie tradition with the more palpable pleasures of the commercial thriller. Thus, like the breathless Run Lola Run, Wintersleepers is a film noir-cum-love story-cum-action thriller with an innovative narrative structure, spectacular visuals and a plot filled with twists and surprises. Set in the spectacular winter landscapes of the Bavarian Alps (stunningly shot in wide-screen by Frank Griebe), it is the story of five people whose lives are inextricably linked by fate. The action is set in motion by a road accident, the consequences of which have a devastating effect on the lives of each of the characters. Matters are complicated by the fact that none of the characters is fully aware of the real circumstances surrounding the near-fatal crash, sincethe perpetuator was driving a stolen car. The various strands of the story – from the efforts of a bereaved father (Jesef Bierbichler) to find the driver, to the mutual deceits of two lovers (Heino Ferch and Floriane Daniel), to the more cautious affair of a second couple (Ulrich Matthes and Marie-Lou Sellem) – are skilfully woven together by Tykwer, who uses the Hitchcockian device of letting his audience in on the plot details but keeping his characters very much in the dark.
Wintersleepers is first and foremost a stylish and atmospheric thriller. Tykwer has a very strong visual sense (not only does he make excellent use of locations, but he also colour codes the characters’ costumes), and his stunning images are accompanied by an eerie, Tubular Bells – like score. It may not have the heart-stopping pace of the later Run Lola Run, but this is certainly a technical tour-de-force from one of Europe’s most exciting talents.

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