Review: ‘Blue Mountain’

A smoothly executed drama about domestic child abuse, the German "Blue Mountain" is earnest but too patly written to lend that subject its intended force. Pic's faults --- which culminate in a rigged, cop-out climax --- won't look too bad on the small screen, with Eurotube play a natural outlet. Twelve-year-old Sonia (Chandra Gotz) is plagued by nightmares of late, and has taken to lining the outside of her bedroom door with rocks, as if to ward off evil spirits. Director Thomas Tanner doesn't waste much time before telegraphing what she's afraid of: Successful businessman father Manfred (Wolf Hofer) has begun sexually abusing her at night, while oblivious wife Renate (Eva Scheurer) sleeps off her disabling migraines. The trauma begins to affect Sonia's performance at school and in ballet class, but she's unable to articulate its source.

Comforting friendship arrives in the form of Melanie (Sabrina Luthi), who at 16 has been placed in foster care with the next-door neighbor. The two girls hit it off, Melanie providing some outlet for Sonia’s roiling emotions via mild juvenile delinquency and motorcycle rides. But when Melanie starts catching on to the trouble at hand, Manfred engineers her abrupt return to the reformatory. With Mom (now suspicious) packed off to a rest cure, Dad drags daughter off to grandparents’ country home for more abuse. But a runaway Melanie races to the rescue on her Harley.

Pic’s somber, naturalistic tone doesn’t lend this melodramatic wrap-up much credibility, and seeing juve protags ride off into the sunset is likewise a silly coda for a very serious theme. While subject is handled with taste, the father’s lack of character dimension ultimately renders him a stock bogeyman. As Sonia, Gotz has some trouble expressing Sonia’s more withdrawn and fearful states; other perfs are fine given screenplay’s limited depth. Tech work is pro, though a routine synth score underlines pic’s formulaic approach.

Blue Mountain

SWISS

Production

A BOA Filmproduktion/SF DRS/Teleclub presentation. (International sales: Condor World Sales, Zurich.) Produced by Fredy Messmer. Directed by Thomas Tanner. Screenplay, Gabriele Strohm, Tanner, Walter Bretscher.

Crew

Camera (color), Philippe Cordey; editor, Bernard Lehner; music, Carl Hanggi; production design, Huan; sound, Jurg von Allmen. Reviewed on videocassette, San Francisco, Jan. 14, 1997. (In Cinequest, San Jose Film Festival; also in Locarno Film Festival.) Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Sonia Balmer ..... Chandra Gotz Renate Balmer ..... Eva Scheurer Manfred Balmer ..... Wolf Hofer Melanie ..... Sabrina Luthi Roffe ..... Daniel Bill Nicole ..... Renee Baumann
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