German helmer Angelina Maccarone’s latest film, “Vivere,” piles heavy emotional baggage on a slender story frame. Pic looks ravishing, featuring a nocturnal road trip through a cool kaleidoscopic landscape of shifting colors peopled by three commanding thesps of different generations whose interlocking stories form a cohesive whole. But the same minor events, retold three times from overlapping points of view, drain the pic of momentum and mystery. Skedded for 2007 release by Regent Releasing (sister company to gay-themed here! Films), “Vivere” could cannily mesh lesbian and arthouse auds.
Cab driver Francesca (Esther Zimmering) savors her absolute control at the wheel, which dissolves into Cinderella-like impotence every time she goes home. Her Italian father, abandoned by his German spouse, unceremoniously dumped all domestic responsibility on her, including care of his youngest daughter Antonietta (Kim Schnitzer), upon whom he dotes.
When Antonietta suddenly takes off on Christmas Eve with her rocker b.f., for a gig in Rotterdam, the distraught father dispatches Francesca to hunt her down.
En route, Francesca rescues a woman from a car wreck, thus acquiring a passenger, Gerlinde (legendary German vet Hannelore Elsner). Gerlinde, despairing at being abandoned for the holidays by her lesbian lover, accompanies Francesca to Rotterdam, disappearing and reappearing in Francesca’s taxi according to patterns revealed only in Gerlinde’s portion of the narrative.
When younger sis Antonietta rejoins the round with her missing pieces of the action, the circle is complete, each occurrence slightly altered in the retelling.
Unfortunately, not much happens on the fateful night. Maccarone, whose films have sparked increasing interest in Europe, here has chosen a high-concept structure whose perfect symmetry ill suits her uneven content and unequal thesps.
The actresses’ perfs vary widely. Zimmering’s Francesca, her intensity sometimes recalling a young Ingrid Bergman, launches the story convincingly. The indomitable Elsner, her face a ravaged map tracing decades of emotional risk-taking, mesmerizes with every wearily elegant gesture.
But by the time Schnitzer’s callow Antonietta gets to her p.o.v., the subject is more than exhausted, particularly since the pic’s richest scene is between Gerlinde and Francesca, and takes place well out of Antonietta’s view.
Tech credits are superlative, particularly Judith Kaufmann’s usual splendid lensing, which encases the film’s 24-hour timeframe in almost palpable enchantment.