Starting with a plot lifted straight from "Thelma & Louise," there's an air about "Burning Life" that's technically slick but unreal. Berlin-based director Peter Welz's second theatrical feature comes close to succeeding in its intent to make a Hollywood-type movie, and has done very well at the local B.O. as a result, but in essence the film is a collage of hand-me-down sequences with no soul of its own.

Starting with a plot lifted straight from “Thelma & Louise,” there’s an air about “Burning Life” that’s technically slick but unreal. Berlin-based director Peter Welz’s second theatrical feature comes close to succeeding in its intent to make a Hollywood-type movie, and has done very well at the local B.O. as a result, but in essence the film is a collage of hand-me-down sequences with no soul of its own.

Drifters Lisa (Anna Thalbach) and Anna (Maria Schrader) cross paths in a small town in eastern Germany. Lisa, who’s robbing a bank, drops her toy gun and Anna picks it up. Developing a taste for the renegade life, both gals start traveling the country and are quickly dubbed “Germany’s most popular bank-robbing duo.”

Because the cops are depicted as too stupid to get even close to the duo, most of the film’s potential for conflict is lost from the start. And for anyone familiar with Germany, which boasts one of the world’s most efficient police forces, pic comes over as completely unbelievable. This would be OK if the movie went all the way as a spoof, but it doesn’t do that either.

Though the heart of the film is ostensibly the friendship between the two women, it’s little more than a movie cliche, with personality traits (Lisa pouts , Anna hams) standing in for true character.

As Lisa, Thalbach smolders her way through a role that’s neither emotionally engaging nor very interesting. Schrader (now a hot actress in Germany) steals the show by injecting as much life as possible into her wild and crazy failed singer/dancer. Max Tidof, as a mysterious stranger, is good despite a superficial and superfluous role.

Tech credits are all fine, especially lensing by Michael Schaufert. But though director Welz brings an overall professionalism to the picture, he and scripter Stefan Kolditz never make the whole more than a collection of cliches all seen before in better contexts.

Burning Life

(GERMAN)

Production

A TiMe release (in Germany) of an Antaeus production, in association with Studio Babelsberg, Parabel Film, SWF, ORB. Produced by Alexander Gehrke. Directed by Peter Welz. Screenplay, Stefan Kolditz.

Crew

Camera (color), Michael Schaufert; editor, Helga Risch-Wardeck; music, Neil Quinton; production design, Dieter Adam, Claudia Sembach; costume design, Anne-Gret Oehme; sound (Dolby), Rainer Haase, Henning Thoelert; makeup, Klaus Friedrich, Christine Steinfelder. Reviewed at Babylon cinema, Berlin, Mar. 4, 1995. (In Berlin Film Festival -- New German Cinema.) Running time: 104 MIN.

With

With: Anna Thalbach, Maria Schrader, Max Tidof, Jaecki Schwarz, Andreas Hoppe , Dani Levy, Michael Klobe, Gojko Mitic.
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