Counterparts: Violence suits them
by Vitor Pinto
Proving the creative power of a new generation of German filmmakers, Jan
Bonny's feature debut Counterparts [+see also:
film profile] premiered this morning at Cannes' Directors' Fortnight. Produced by Bettina Brokemper of Cologne-based Heimatfilm and sold by French outfit Wide Management, the film is a poignant and uncommon story of domestic violence in which the most evident victim is the husband.
Focusing on what lies hidden behind an apparently happy marriage, Bonny chose to focus his plot on a middle-class family in which the mother (Anne) is a primary teacher and the father (Georg) a respectful and level-headed police officer. The choice was more than coincidental.
"Because of their professions, explained Bonny after the screening, these people are supposed to be the educators of our society. They have authority. So, on a rational level, they should be able to deal with violence domestic or otherwise but for some reason cannot".
Bonny's camera is often too close to the characters – as if spying on their most private moments – and gives the film a troubling atmosphere with scenes of violence followed by moments of incomprehension and disturbing tenderness between the couple. What does emerge, however, is the director’s intention not to take sides. Although Anne is seemingly the more aggressive one in the couple, we cannot help but wonder whether Georg’s passivity is perhaps the manifestation of his own aggression, and whether he truly is less violent than Anne.
However, this kind of exercise of impartiality was not shared by the crowd. Unexpectedly (or not), the audience enthusiastically applauded when Georg finally reacted and violently, at that to his wife's aggression. "I was curious to see how people would respond to that. I guess the violence is so extreme that such a reaction is normal. You need to release the tension. It's like when you laugh in a horror film. Some other people won't approve. They will think there was no reason to explode, especially if he had restrained himself for all those years," concluded Bonny.
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