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LOCARNO 2018 Competition

Review: A Winter’s Tale

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- LOCARNO 2018: German director Jan Bonny presents his second feature, a deliberately violent and disturbing work, in Locarno’s international competition

Review: A Winter’s Tale

Ten years after his feature debut, Counterparts [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, was presented in the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, Jan Bonny has surprised everyone with a new movie, A Winter’s Tale [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, selected in the international competition at the Locarno Film Festival. A Winter’s Tale is a deliberately violent, unhinged and disturbing film that brings us face to face with an underground world that we would prefer to remain as such.

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Becky, Tommi and Maik are the lead characters in A Winter’s Tale, a brutal portrait of a far-right terrorist cell in which dreams of power clash with a reality that is anything but glorious. Becky, Tommi and Maik live underground, dreaming of one day being able to become national heroes, the sole mouthpieces of a spotless Germany that, in their view, must be safeguarded, whatever the cost.

The relationship that binds them is complex and decidedly ambiguous: hatred, resentment, every type of sexual frustration (there are definitely too many sex scenes, and instead of shocking us, they become unbearably banal). The impetus that spurs them on is a destructive force fuelled by blood. Their extreme xenophobic fanaticism compels them to carry out a string of violent crimes in the name of values that, to them, are inalienable: honour, pride and loyalty. But what happens when these values gradually start to crumble, smashed to smithereens by a growing loss of control?

With A Winter’s Tale, Jan Bonny implores us to reflect on the drift affecting extreme-right movements, from a decidedly uncomfortable point of view. Rather than observing the repercussions from the outside, from afar, the German director forces us to draw ever nearer to the monster. 

A Winter’s Tale depicts three complex characters, driven towards the abyss by a perverse ideology formed of hatred and frustration. Nevertheless, Bonny does not mean to dwell on the clichés surrounding far-right movements; what he is attempting to do is rather to lift the lid on the hidden, private and intimate side of them. 

The most disturbing thing is indeed this intimacy that we are, to a certain extent, forced to experience through the characters. We would love to be able to escape, detach and run away from this position of close proximity to a world we are accustomed to observing through a journalistic filter. When we are mere detached observers, we are led to believe that this horrendous reality is totally under control, that the monster has been caged, but unfortunately, as Bonny shows us, the reality is a lot more complex and downright frightening than that. Despite the abominable deeds they perpetrate, when all is said and done, these fiends are part of our society, even though they may be hidden in the shadows. 

The most shocking aspect is the private side of the three lead characters’ lives, the sheer ease with which they execute their bloodthirsty plan. Their egos are fuelled by unbridled narcissism, by hatred and fantasies of omnipotence that are dangerous substitutes for reality. What can we do in order to subdue those individuals who, deep down, no longer fear anything? Killing is the only way for them to feel alive, to escape from an everyday life made of decay and rejection. Here, Jan Bonny portrays the banality of violence, a depraved dream that transforms into a living hell. 

A Winter’s Tale was produced by Heimatfilm. The international rights are held by The Match Factory.

(Translated from Italian)

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