Review: ‘The Survivors’

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 23, 1996. Running time: 92 MIN.

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 23, 1996. Running time: 92 MIN.

This searing documentary about three suicides in Stuttgart as related by schoolmates and relatives is an honest, insightful look into a provincial small-town atmosphere. At times funny, at other times icy cold, this docu will be hard to market, but will satisfy an appreciative festival or specialty audience.

Filmmaker Andres Veiel returned to question his schoolmates after three of their high school class of ’79 committed suicide between 1985 and 1990: Thilo, who suffered under his domineering parents; Rudi, apparently to avoid a death by AIDS; and Tilmann, whose death remains unexplained and might not have been suicide.

What starts out as a class reunion becomes a review of life in a claustrophobic, middle-class suburb of Stuttgart. Friends and relatives talk about the victims and the circumstances, and some scenes are dramatized, with Lutz Reitemeier’s aloof camera conveying the victims’ p.o.v. What comes out is more than an homage to dead friends but, rather, an unsentimental, oddly revealing look at their circumstances.

Some of the characters could be straight out of some black comedy. Though the interviews and scenes are simple, Veiel manages to pick up nuances and details, from hairdos to accents, that are so well observed that the tiny, conservative suburb becomes as fascinating as the tragedies that occurred there.

Technical credits are average, and the film, which in places relies heavily on local accents and attitudes, will need excellent subtitling for export.

The Survivors

(GERMAN -- DOCU)

Production

A Journal-Film production. (International sales: Journal-Film, Berlin.) Produced by Klaus Volkenborn. Directed, written by Andres Veiel.

Crew

Camera (color), Lutz Reitemeier; editor, Bernd Euscher; sound, Paul Oberle.
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