As frank as it is elegantly filmed, Bettina Blumner’s superb “Pool of Princesses” runs rings around most current docs as it coolly and patiently observes the lives of three 15-year-old girls living in Berlin’s multicultural Kreuzberg district. Pic combines the technique and filmic qualities of high-end narrative film with cinema verite’s tradition of total involvement with its subjects’ lives, recalling high doc achievements in the vein of “An American Family.” Berlin fest preem has led to a few fest dates, but pic deserves stronger fest and distrib interest. Local German theatrical release was May 31.
Original German title puns on Berlin’s popular public pool, Prinzenbad, where teens Klara Reinacher, Tanutscha Glowasz, Mina Bowling (all referred to, like everyone else in the pic, by first name only) are first seen frolicking in the water and paying more attention to one another than the guys in the pool. Within minutes, though, it’s clear that these girls are already sexually sophisticated (at least verbally), as evidenced by their conversations with young men in Internet chatrooms.
The three girls are all children of divorced, proudly permissive parents. Wisely, Blumner never comments on these parents’ choices and values (mom Sascha Reinacher’s only two rules are no heroin and no pregnancies), instead showing how the kids of liberal Berlin parents live in single-parent homes with maximum freedom.It’s not all fun and games, much as a seemingly wild girl like Klara might want it to be. Glammed up at almost all times and playing to the camera much more than Tanutscha and Mina do, the blonde Klara has wound up in special-ed classes at school, even though she’s a math ace and obviously smart as a whip. Tanutscha, who talks tough but reveals a softer personality underneath, has cut all ties with her Iranian-born father but remains close to her German-born mom, Ursula.
Neither has the kind of steady beau Mina can claim in sweet-natured George-Daniel Thelitz, a loving guy who plans to study marine biology in South America — one of the bitter costs of mature Mina’s preference for older guys. While Mina deals with this mini-drama — to which Blumner has astonishing access — she must contend with her conflicting feelings about her parents’ lovelives.
How Blumner gained such trust and managed such finely shot scenes (with ace 35mm lensing by Mathias Schoningh) raises questions that resonate in the mind long after “Pool of Princesses” has unspooled. Some scenes tempt speculation that they’re at least partially staged, but there’s always enough randomness and spontaneity to suggest that Blumner is capturing everything on the fly.
A wonderfully revealing look at contempo teens as well as present-day Kreuzberg, pic leaves auds with the lingering question of what these girls’ prospects actually are. Blumner could easily follow director Michael Apted’s example with his “Up” docs and revisit her trio in seven years.
The girls’ preference for cutting-edge Euro hip-hop is faithfully transferred to the effective soundtrack.