German director Doris Doerrie delivers her most beautiful and visually interesting film to date in “Nobody Loves Me,” a romantic comedy about a desperate single’s search for the man of her dreams. Pic suffers badly, however, from indecision over which of two storylines to focus on. Doerrie’s name and some good reviews will get the movie initial attention, but word of mouth won’t let it get far in theaters.
In terms of pure imagination, both Doerrie and husband/longtime cameraman Helge Weindler are at their peak here. The weird, Fellini-like characters peopling her heroine’s Cologne skyscraper, the carnival masks on the city’s streets and her oddball yet sympathetic characters all come together in a fantastic, funny and bittersweet bouquet. Weindler’s cinematography is luscious, warm and impeccable.
Yet the film begins to drag fairly quickly. In the beginning, it promises a comedy about a single girl, Fanny Fink (Maria Schrader), who’s turning 30 and desperately looking for a guy. She forms a platonic friendship with gay Orfeo (Pierre Sanoussi-Bliss), a self-made African witch doctor (and con man) living in her apartment building.
Orfeo promises to voodoo up a man for Fanny, but he turns out to be yuppie-scum building supervisor Lothar (Michael von Au). Orfeo has his own romantic problems, and is also convinced he’s going to die and be taken away by UFOs. Orfeo indeed disappears — with Fanny’s money — but in the meantime has taught her something (it’s not clear what). In the end, she finds the man of her dreams, whom she’s always known but never noticed.
Doerrie would have done better to concentrate on either Fanny’s search or her friendship with Orfeo. Latter thread is far stronger, and seems to have appealed to Doerrie more. Stronger plotting would have let audiences better enjoy the pic’s sparklingly odd moments.
Schrader is excellent and sympathetic as the desperate Fanny. Dressed in black, she shows a comic-tragic affinity for death as a positive alternative to manlessness, even attending therapeutic suicide classes. Schrader neatly treads the line between whiny self-pity and feisty mischief. Pic could elevate her to Germany’s romantic-comedy specialist, a la Meg Ryan.
As Fanny’s hysterical mother, a writer who’s more concerned with bad reviews than her daughter’s problems, Elisabeth Trissenaar is also excellent.
The little-known Sanoussi-Bliss is top-drawer as Orfeo. Whether dressed in a skeleton suit studying bones, wearing an evening gown mouthing a Billie Holiday song in a gay club, fantasizing about UFOs coming to pick him up or just crying on Fanny’s shoulder, the Berlin-born and raised actor is thoroughly convincing.
One of his best scenes has him setting up shop on the street with a cardboard sign saying “Hand-Reading” on one side and “Trying to Return to Africa” on the other. He gets more contributions with the “Africa” side.
Claus Kottmann’s bizarre, fantastic production design and Siegbert Kammerer’s on-the-mark costumes play a major role in giving the film a great look. Other tech credits are excellent.