A bitter female piano teacher takes on the challenge of training a gifted but self-destructive femme prisoner in German meller "Four Minutes." Plot might sound superficially like a castoff storyline from Oz soap "Prisoner: Cell Block H" crossed with "Shine," but by dint of strong perfs (especially from relative newcomer Hannah Herzsprung) and powerful use of music, the pic works in spite of itself.

A bitter female piano teacher takes on the challenge of training a gifted but self-destructive femme prisoner in German meller “Four Minutes.” Plot might sound superficially like a castoff storyline from Oz soap “Prisoner: Cell Block H” crossed with “Shine,” but by dint of strong perfs (especially from relative newcomer Hannah Herzsprung) and powerful use of music, the pic works in spite of itself. Underplayed lesbian subplot may give this a leg up on the fest circuit, but “Minutes” won’t last much more than a few weeks as theatrical release outside its domestic market.

Sour spinster Miss Krueger (Monica Bleibtreu, mother of Moritz Bleibtreu) has been teaching classical piano to inmates at a prison for years. She’s reluctant to take on sulky new arrival Jenny (Herzsprung), but changes her mind when she hears the girl play. However, the young prodigy has serious issues stemming from an abusive childhood, and keeps sabotaging chances to play at competitions outside the big house. Performing her own musical stunts (such as playing with her hands cuffed behind her back), Herzsprung tears up the screen, especially during the pic’s climax. Tech credits are pro.

Four Minutes

Germany

Production

A Kordes & Kordes Film production. (International sales: Beta Cinema, Oberhaching.) Produced by Meike Kordes, Alexandra Kordes. Executive producer, Meike Kordes. Directed, written by Chris Kraus.

Crew

Camera (color, 16mm-to-35mm), Judith Kaufmann; editor, Uta Schmidt; music, Annette Focks; production designer, Silke Buhr; costume designer, Gioia Raspe. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 11, 2006. Original title: Vier Minuten. Running time: 114 MIN.

With

Monica Bleibtreu, Hannah Herzsprung, Sven Pippig, Richy Mueller, Jasmin Tabatabai, Amber Bongard.

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