Review: ‘Low Profile’

Bourgeois life never looked more colorless than in "Low Profile." Sophomore helmer Christoph Hochhausler keeps the color palette muted to reflect the stifling drabness of a nice middle class family in the tightly written, intimate drama which follows an 18-year-old's quiet search for something to jolt him out of his sterile existence.

Bourgeois life never looked more colorless than in “Low Profile.” Sophomore helmer Christoph Hochhausler keeps the color palette muted to reflect the stifling drabness of a nice middle class family in the tightly written, intimate drama which follows an 18-year-old’s quiet search for something to jolt him out of his sterile existence. Occasionally mixing in a bit of fantasy and well-sustained humor, Hochhausler keeps sympathy high. As title suggests, pic won’t make a big splash, but it could raise the profile of its talented helmer and cast.

 Armin Steeb (Constantin von Jascheroff) has finished school but hasn’t a clue what to do with his life. His insufferably protective parents (Manfred Zapatka and Victoria Trauttmansdorff) make him promise to send out one job application a day, but he’s listless and bored at interviews, incapable of mustering even a hint of ambition.

 Walking back home along a dark road one night, he comes across a wrecked car with the driver dead at the wheel. Fascinated, he picks up a broken axle and takes it home.

Later on, sitting in front of the computer with yet another job request half written, he types up an anonymous letter to a newspaper claiming responsibility for sabotaging the car.

 Seemingly without friends and strung along by the older and wiser Katja (Nora von Waldstatten), Armin struggles to find something to help him break free from the inertia around him. Periodically, he marks up the walls in public toilets with advertisements of his availability or fantasizes about sex with a gang of motorcyclists.

 Neither clearly gay nor straight, his real enjoyment comes from actions that go against the grain of his family’s numbingly circumscribed lives: He gets more pleasure out of peeing in his bath than jacking off, and, when the media picks up on his anonymous sabotage claim, he feels a thrill that leads him to claim responsibility for other actions.

Script keeps mostly to small, well-observed encounters that reveal more about character than story or background. Hochhausler has a wicked ear for the banalities of job interviews, gleefully skewering the inanities and self-importance of an invariably humiliating process.

Thesping kudos go to von Jascheroff, who effortlessly carries the pic and manages to capture both Armin’s perplexed lack of direction and his growing need for the kind of knock that will free him from his stifling environment. His final wide smile, so different from any expression earlier, is memorable.

In keeping with the characters’ pallid lives, Hochhausler and d.p. Bernhard Keller stick with washed out colors; the Steeb family home never has enough light inside, indicative of the people themselves. Pic’s carefully controlled appearance doesn’t betray its low budget and extremely tight shooting schedule.

Low Profile

Germany

Production

A Heimatfilm GmbH + Co. KG production, in association with Pictorion Pictures, Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Zentropa Entertainments. (International sales: Trust Film Sales, Hvidovre, Denmark.) Produced by Bettina Brokemper. Directed, written by Christoph Hochhausler.

Crew

Camera (color, Cinemascope), Bernhard Keller; editor, Stefan Stabenow; music, Benedikt Wolfgang Schiefer; production designer, Beatrice Schultz; costume designer, Susanne Sasserath; sound (Dolby Digital), Wolfgang Vogl; sound editor, Yumiko Konomi; casting, Ulrike Mueller. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 15, 2005. Running time: 86 MIN.

With

Constantin von Jascheroff, Manfred Zapatka, Victoria Trauttmansdorff, Nora von Waldstatten, Devid Striesow, Florian Panzner, Thomas Dannemann, Laura Tonke, Dennis Prinz, Martin Kiefer, Walter Gontermann, Jorg Pose, Thomas Meinhard, Wieslawa Wesolowska, Max Limper, Klaus Zmorek, Juergen Haug.
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