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Alone

"Alone" follows the deterioration of a young woman whose manic promiscuity and chemical intake appear to have been emitted from a volcano of self-destructive self-loathing. Debut feature for writer-helmer Thomas Durchschlag is a strong fest item whose exploitable sexual content could prove a sales point for arthouse distribbers.

An admirably direct, unsensationalized study of mental illness, “Alone” follows the deterioration of a high-strung young woman whose manic promiscuity and chemical intake appear to have been emitted from a volcano of self-destructive self-loathing. Terse pic only gradually reveals the depth of protag’s instability, making for a potent portrait that errs only in rambling on too long once she’s hit bottom. Debut feature for writer-helmer Thomas Durchschlag is a strong fest item whose exploitable (but not exploitative) sexual content could prove a sales point for select arthouse distribbers.

Pretty but thin and nervous as a greyhound, Maria (Lavinia Wilson) works at a university library by day, chafing against her boorish boss. By night she roams the club scene, picking up guys for sex, then leaving them in the middle of the night. Her standard appears to have been set by regular visits from Wolfgang (Richy Muller), a brawny sugar daddy who suggests rough sex is just what Maria needs, wants, and presumably deserves.

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Her obvious substance abuse and low self-esteem dawn very slowly on Jan (Maximilian Bruckner), a genuinely nice visiting graduate student who is smitten with Maria. Maria’s neediness and impulsiveness that at first seem endearing grow less so as her irrational mood swings, paranoia and unreasonable demands begin to dominate their relationship.

When Jan leaves for a week’s study in Amsterdam, Maria reverts to her most self-destructive behavior despite attempted intervention from best friend Sarah (Victoria Mayer). Once she hits bottom, however, the film loses momentum, piling on a few more reckless incidents than necessary before ending on the anticipated ambiguous note.

The extent of Maria’s illness is revealed by present-tense behavior rather than verbal explanation. This tactic works well, as it did in such recent meltdown portraits as “Presque Rein” and “Tim White.” Still, some viewers may be frustrated by lack of character backstory.

Very focused perfs, screenplay, and coolly efficient design all bring queasy credibility to a theme that might easily have descended into scenery-chewing theatrics, or “Looking for Mr. Goodbar”-style moralizing.

Alone

Germany

  • Production: A Lichtblick Film production in association with WDR. Produced by Joachim Ortmanns. Directed, written by Thomas Durchschlag.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Michael Wiesweg; editor, Inga Ehrlich; music, Maciej Sledziecki; production designer, Sonja Illius; art director, Ute Paffendorf; sound (Dolby Digital), Andreas Wolki; casting, Anja Dihrberg. Reviewed at Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, San Francisco Jan. 7, 2005. Running time: 88 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Lavinia Wilson, Maximilian Bruckner, Richy Muller, Victoria Mayer.
  • Music By: