Review: ‘Stroke’

"Stroke" is a one of the strongest entries in the mushrooming category of medical emergency docus. Musician Boris Baberkoff's brush with death leaves him strongly motivated to go through the rigors of rehab and return to his profession. Pic's inspirational character and happy ending could entice broadcasters to give it a go.

A moving, very personal account of the filmmaker and her young husband who suffered a near-fatal stroke soon after they were married, “Stroke” is a one of the strongest entries in the mushrooming category of medical emergency docus. Like film producer Gil Rossellini in “Kill Gil,” musician Boris Baberkoff’s brush with death leaves him strongly motivated to go through the rigors of rehab and return to his profession. Pic’s inspirational character and happy ending, together with its deeply expressive imagery, could entice broadcasters to give it a go.

Film has won a spate of pries at Leipzig and other docu fests.

Katarina Peters, a Berlin-based filmer, is visiting New York with her recently wed 33-year-old cellist husband Boris when he collapses and is rushed to intensive care. In the darkest moments, when he is able to hear but not move or communicate, Peters reaches for her DV camera. After a risky airlift back to Germany and gruelling months of physical therapy in a clinic, he recovers sufficiently to return home and begin learning the cello all over again.

Peters’ background in shorts and installations stands her in good stead turning the absorbing medical material into a probing slice of hard-lived life and symbolic dream sequences. It is this artistic dimension that lifts “Stroke” onto another plane.

Peters additionally had the good fortune to work with the lovable, highly watchable Baberkoff. Introducing his extended family of Hungarian-Bulgarian musicians early on, she places his exuberant character in context and preps an emotional peak when a tape of Mozart brings him “back to life” in the hospital. Ironically, she is much harder on herself, ruthlessly exposing her own feelings and sense of loneliness, misery and exhaustion as the months wear on and her bank account bottoms out. Yet her loving dedication to Boris repeats the film’s leitmotif that life is a very, very powerful thing.

Editor Friederike Anders gets things off to a lightning fast start and keeps them moving without lingering or commiseration. A midfilm grant allowed further shooting in beautifully lensed 35mm, to which the rougher DV footage adds a sharp edge. Baberkoff’s own dramatic score offers proof of his remarkable recovery and undimmed talent.

Stroke

Germany

Production

A Katarina Peters Filmproduktion in association with ZDF/Das Kleine Fernsehspiel. Produced, directed, written by Katarina Peters.

Crew

Camera (color, 35m/DV), Peters, Christopher Rowe, Roger von Heereman; editor, Friederike Anders; music, Boris Baberkoff. Reviewed at Dubai Film Festival (Destination Documentary), Dec. 15, 2005. Running time: 111 MIN.

With

Boris Baberkoff, Katarina Peters.

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