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Film Review: ‘Lose My Self’

German helmer Jan Schomburg delivers an initially clever but ultimately rather silly amnesia drama.

Cast:

Maria Schrader, Johannes Krisch, Ronald Zehrfeld, Sandra Hueller, Paul Herwig, Jeff Zach.

“Is ‘the self’ merely a performance?” asks Jan Schomburg’s rather silly amnesia drama “Lose My Self.” Whereas previously in “Above Us Only Sky,” the helmer questioned what anyone really knows about their loved ones, here he probes what we know about ourselves, via an academic whose meningitis brings on a catastrophic loss of memory. At the start the idea is handled with a touch of humor and relative cleverness, but the woman’s inability to handle all situations, not just those involving direct recall, lends the pic an almost parodic feel that falls flat. Sales will be limited.

At a party one evening, Lena (Maria Schrader) suddenly appears catatonic. Hubby Tore (Johannes Krisch) takes her to the hospital, where she’s diagnosed with meningitis. The medical implications aren’t serious, but she’s lost major portions of her memory, though why she can remember that Angela Merkel is the chancellor, but can’t recall her parents, is odd.

Once he brings her home, Tore tries to normalize the situation, but Lena is essentially a different woman, and a stranger at that. The rather sober academic has suddenly acquired a taste for pink, sparkly clothes and less serious pursuits than researching “performative patterns in gender relations.” More troubling, she can’t gauge mood or tone in normal conversations and has become completely incapable of understanding basic human interactions. Patient as he is, even Tore loses it when the now highly flirtatious Lena picks up Roman (Ronald Zehrfeld) at a Pentecostal church.

Near the end, as the new Lena becomes more confident in pretending to be the person she was, she remarks, “We’re all playing a part,” concretizing in one line what “Lose My Self” is all about. Pity Schomburg can’t do more with the concept, though the statement is hardly revolutionary. Less clear is how Lena’s illness affects intuition and even sensation — perhaps a prologue by Oliver Sacks would have clarified things.

Performances are uniformly strong, and tech credits are pro. Pic’s German language title is not to be confused with that of David Sieveking’s 2012 Alzheimer’s docu “Vergiss mein nicht” (“Forget Me Not”).

Film Review: 'Lose My Self'

Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (competing), Jan. 26, 2014. (Also in Berlin Film Festival — market; Sofia Film Festival — competing.) Running time: 93 MIN. (Original title: “Vergiss mein Ich”)

Production:

(Germany) A Pandora Film Produktion, Westdeutscher Rundfunk production. (International sales: the Match Factory, Cologne, Germany.) Produced by Claudia Steffen, Christoph Friedel.

Crew:

Directed, written by Jan Schomburg. Camera (color), Marc Comes; editor, Berd Euscher; music, Tobias Wagner, Steven Schwalbe, Chris Bremus; production designer, Cora Pratz; costume designer, Ulrike Schafschwerdt; sound (Dolby Digital), Andreas Hildebrandt, William Edouard Franck; casting, Regina Tiefenthaller.

With:

Maria Schrader, Johannes Krisch, Ronald Zehrfeld, Sandra Hueller, Paul Herwig, Jeff Zach.

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