Review: Electric Girl
by Teresa Vena
- After its premiere in the competition section of the Max Ophüls Prize in Saarbrücken this January, the second feature by Ziska Riemann has been released in German cinemas
Ziska Riemann is a multi-talented comic-strip artist, musician, author and director who was born in Munich. In her first feature, 2011’s Lollipop Monster [+see also:
interview: Jella Haase
film profile], the protagonists were two teenage girls running away from feelings of deception and frustration over their broken family life, and escaping into a parallel dream world from which there was no easy way out. In Electric Girl [+see also:
interview: Ziska Riemann
film profile], her second feature, now on general release in Germany courtesy of Farbfilm Verleih, Riemann again constructs her story around a young woman in search of a special mission in life. The film is a blend of a fantasy-novel adaptation, coming-of-age story and psychological study of an unstable personality.
Mia (Victoria Schulz) is a young, independent woman who works in a bar to earn a living, but has ambitions to be an author and actress. By day, she plays Kimiko, a heroine in a Japanese anime, dubbing her into German for an animated series. Her workload steadily increases, and at the same time, the job becomes more intense for Mia, causing Kimiko to become her alter ego. In this self-confident little girl with superpowers, she finds a friend, a role model and someone fighting for a better world. The fact that she can identify with the fictive character gradually alters her perception of her surroundings. She starts talking about an imminent power outage that is necessary to save humanity from an unspecified evil power disguised as electricity. Mia’s friends and family react, unable to comprehend what has happened to her, and they lose contact with her. Mia’s only, more or less inadvertent, companion is her neighbour Kristof (Hans-Jochen Wagner).
The relationship between the girl and the man functions as an alliance between two lost souls, between this euphoric young woman and this depressed older guy, who may just be able to save one another. This is, however, just one strand of the story, which is kept superficial and is actually not fully convincing. The focus is on Mia’s psychological adventure – yet here, too, the director seems hesitant to depict the extent of the main character’s split personality. Virtually until the very end, the tone remains that of a fairy tale, of an exciting fantasy starring a disappointingly shallow protagonist. It is difficult for the viewer to identify with her, as she has no deeper layers to delve into; she is more of a colourful cartoon with a vibrant façade, as smooth and unblemished as her anime role model.
It’s also a pity that, in addition to the underdeveloped characters, the auteur does not seize the chance to lend some more weight to the topic of the global threat that Mia can sense. In fact, electricity could be seen as symbolic of a real menace to humanity and the environment, bearing in mind the issues of nuclear power or light pollution, for instance. Despite its shortcomings in terms of content and dramaturgy, on a formal level, Electric Girl does offer some atmospheric and coherent imagery concentrating on a warm range of colours and on incorporating an original series of animated elements. The mixture between the live-action scenes and the animation works well and injects some energy into the film. With its convincing musical score, the movie can therefore be considered an entertaining experience, probably most suitable for a younger audience.
Electric Girl is a German-Belgian co-production. It was produced by NiKo Film in co-production with Wüste Film GmbH, both German firms, and Belgium’s A Private View, in collaboration with WDR and ARTE. It is being distributed internationally by Farbfilm Verleih.
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