The Days Between (2001)

6 07 2008

Here’s more proof that if any particular country rules the decade in cinema, its Germany. More specifically, German women as this was made the same year as Angela Schanelec’s Passing Summer. Where that film develops an almost completely unique aesthetic, this one just does falls into the trappings of familiar territory. Moody visuals and long static-shots tell a story about urban alienation? If one has paid any attention to Asian cinema in the past couple of years, then they would now that this film is far from groundbreaking. While it is not a Tsai clone, it is certainly close, which accounts for its only fault, it feels a bit pre-meditated.

Lynn lives with her brother, who is now married and has two kids. While he struggles with the chaos of family life, Lynn is able to live freely and with no commitments. She parties often but still maintains a very shaky relationship with a professional (?) swimmer named David. He is averse to her carefree, alcohol-fueled lifestyle but still shows plenty of affection. One day at work, Lynn strikes up a conversation (well, sort of) with Koji, a Japanese student who knows very little German. They begin to see each other very often, even though they have almost no way of communication, which leads to a new relationship and even more complications for Lynn.

The first couple of minutes are actually quite different from the rest of the film, perhaps more akin to a slightly slower version of Lynne Ramsay’s Morvern Callar. Essentially, it is just the absolutely captivating Sabine Timoteo walking around and doing other inconsequential tasks, all of which are rendered in a green saturation visual style. I’ll admit that this look has become perversely overused in recent years but assuming that one can find the right balance (ie not over-saturated the images, see Feathers in the Head) than it will almost always look stunning. It should be no surprise that this is the case here, seeing as the masterful Reinhold Vorschneider (who worked on Angela Schanelec’s films, among other things) is in charge of the photography.

Once Koji is introduced, the film begins to move into the familiar territory of the whole “lost souls find each other” premise, which is not a problem. At least not inherently so. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the scenes of Koji and Lynn walking in the streets half-drunk at night, or even their initial awkward flirting. But on the other hand, it does feel a bit too familiar, at least to me. Perhaps the biggest problem is that there are not enough transgressions to separate the film from something like Boy Meets Girl. There are a few scenes that attempt this separation, such as the one when the wife of Lynn’s brother begins to play an accordion in the middle of the night, but there are not enough of them. In retrospect, there seems to be very few particularly great moments. Instead, the film is just great in a more cohesive way, which is neither a compliment nor a criticism. Still, for all the overly familiar elements, this is still a really great film. Worth it for the photography and Sabine Timoteo alone, but there’s plenty of other positive factors as well.