Puppy love perseveres even as a nuclear reactor meltdown devastates rural Germany in hybrid “what if?” drama “The Cloud.” Too intense for the age group of its protags, and too teen-centric for a strictly adult crowd, cautionary anti-nuke pic is just the kind of movie parents should see with their kids — if kids ever went to the movies with their parents anymore. Puzzled locals didn’t know what to make of it either, as the pic’s March 2006 domestic bow was received tepidly. Yet “The Cloud” reps an intriguing selection for fests, public interest orgs and adventurous cablers.
Hannah (Paula Kalenberg) is a normal German 16-year-old from a town north of Frankfurt, exasperated with kid brother Uli (Hans-Laurin Beyerling) and berated for her lack of responsibility by harried single mom Paula (Carina Wiese), who’s off to an out-of-town conference. That’s about to change, though, as the very moment a complex flirtation with hunky 18-year-old school newcomer Elmar (Franz Dinda) leads to a first kiss at school, they literally hears bells — the first alarms indicating a crisis at the nearby Elbersberg nuclear facility.
In the ensuing chaos, Hannah and Elmar are separated, Mom is removed from the picture with some finality, and even little Uli is abruptly and horrifically killed. Pic’s most affecting sequence sees Hannah picked up by a fleeing family, only to be contaminated by fallout from a passing thunderstorm after a train station melee.
Waking up in a makeshift hospital, Hannah’s grief is tempered by the belated appearance of Elmar, who, over the protestations of moneybags dad Albert (Richy Mueller), risks contamination to be with his now-bald g.f. Balance of the pic dwells on their on-again, off-again relationship, ending with a return to the scene of Uli’s death for a proper burial.
Though helmer Gregor Schnitzler rather pedantically wears his anti-nuke sentiments on the pic’s sleeve, he also understands the fine balance of pace and performance necessary to the genre. Scenes of grand-scale civil unrest have a genuinely unsettling verisimilitude, heightened by Michael Mieke’s widescreen lensing and subtle f/x of gathering storm clouds.
Scripter Marco Kreuzpaintner, whose credits include writing and helming nuanced gay teen drama “Summer Storm,” has wisely grafted the love story to author Gudrun Pausewang’s immensely popular and award-winning young adult 1985 novel. Yet this is not a pic for the overly impressionable, as it pulls no punches in portraying disintegration of societal norms. The “all” conquered by these teens’ love encompasses a good bit.
Young Dinda is cut from the Keanu Reeves mold, while Kalenberg’s Hannah manages to connect to an inner reserve almost in spite of herself — and what parent wouldn’t want that? Supporting players are fine, particularly the adults and moppets before and during the station sequence.
Tech package is aces. Closing card cautions that in 2004, hundreds of incidents were reported at Germany’s 17 active power plants. Work won the Bavarian pic prize for best youth film, and has already received domestic DVD release.