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Die Räuberin

Germany, 2011 | Markus Busch
Girish Shambu checked in from Buffalo to see the international premiere of the German return-to-nature-film Die Räuberin.

Why do we travel? Specifically, what are some reasons why characters travel in cinematic narratives? One answer can be found in a film like Manoel de Oliveira's Voyage to the Beginning of the World (1997), in which an aging film director, based on Oliveira himself and played by the ailing Marcello Mastroianni, takes a road trip and returns to places and people of the past, revisiting the sites of lost childhood, youthful romance and family breakups. (Oliveira was 89 when he made the film; Mastroianni died soon after.) The film seems to tell us: It's never too late to reawaken a memory, or to be struck by a flash of wisdom. In Lisandro Alonso's Liverpool (2008), Farrel, the sailor on shore leave, makes a similar journey into the past, even if Alonso's cinema — spare on dialogue or narrative backstory — is often the opposite of Oliveira's.

A different reason for travel is escape — from a past and into the romantic promise of a kinder, more open and forgiving future where we can begin afresh. I'm reminded of Agnès Varda's Kung Fu Master (1987), in which a 40-year-old woman (Jane Birkin) becomes romantically — and scandalously — involved with a boy in his mid-teens (played by Varda's son Mathieu Demy). Their flight into nature is a way of carving out a pocket of 'pure' space and time for themselves, away from civilization. As we might expect, this fantasy of purity is doomed to be short-lived.

Kung Fu Master would make a provocative double bill with German filmmaker Markus Busch's Die Räuberin (Rough), which is showing in the Bright Future program at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) this year. Busch is a writer-director known most recently for co-writing, with Dominik Graf, the film Don't Follow me Around, that is part of the three-film work Dreileben (2011). The film opens with the protagonist Tania, a 40-year-old woman who is a successful sculptor, escaping her life in the city, and fleeing into the country. She moves into a rented house in a small seaside village, and lives a life of seclusion until she meets Thore, a boy in his mid-teens. She draws him into a friendship and then a romantic relationship, while looking to inaugurate a new life that is marked by compassion and innocence.

The film bears an interesting relationship to other contemporary German cinema, especially that of the 'Berlin School'. Films like Christoph Hochhäusler's The City Below (2010) or Christian Petzold's Jerichow (2008) not only acknowledge their late-capitalist context explicitly, they are actively interested in detailing its mechanisms and machinery. These are films that are self-aware about being set in a particular place at a particular time.

To take a similar example from the other side of the world, scholar Zhang Xudong, in a recent piece in New Left Review about the films of Jia Zhangke, points out the socioeconomic and geographic specificity of Jia's films: They are not a generalized representation of China but the portrayal of a very specific and under-represented slice of China — that of xiancheng, or the county-level city that is also a sort of shadow zone, an in-between space that belongs to neither metropolitan China nor rural China.

Jia's dense and textured representation of a certain China lies at one end of the spectrum. In Die Räuberin, Busch, in a risky gamble, chooses the opposite end of the spectrum: instead of fleshing out his German small town with social, economic and cultural detail, he renders it in stark, abstract, elemental and ultimately unknowable terms.

This approach is not limited to his content; it also extends to his mise-en-scène, which is gray, still, and eerie. In this ghost town, even the commercial establishments like the local bar or the grocery store are sparsely peopled by dour, suspicious xenophobes and misogynists who remain un-individuated. The result is a free-floating menace that hangs in the air, held aloft in the frame by a quiet and repetitive piano-based soundtrack. What the film loses in sociological detail, it tries to make up for in mood and atmosphere.

Returning once more to the motif of travel, Die Räuberin feels sharpest when it is delineating the contrast between two states: on the one hand, the romance of flight from the corrupt, decadent city to the 'pure' and 'innocent' country; and on the other, the cold, hard indifference and hermeticism of the object that Tania, its artist-protagonist, dares to risk romanticizing — rural Germany.

Girish Shambu

Die Räuberin (Markus Busch, Germany 2011, 92')

Girish Shambu teaches at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, runs a film-culture blog at girish, and is co-editor, with Adrian Martin, of the journal LOLA.



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Die Räuberin

Februari 2012 #340

Slow Criticism 2012

Titelindex


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R

R U THERE
R.W. FASSBINDER COLLECTIE I & II
RABAT
RABBIT HOLE
RABBIT ON THE MOON
RABBIT-PROOF FENCE
Race
RACHEL GETTING MARRIED
RACING STRIPES
RADELOOS
RADIOLAND MURDERS
LA RAFLE.
THE RAGE: CARRIE 2
The Raid
The Raid 2
The Railway Man
RAIN DOGS
THE RAINBOW WARRIORS OF WAIHEKE ISLAND
RAINING STONES
RAISE YOUR VOICE
RAISING CAIN
RAISING HELEN
THE RAMEN GIRL
Ramon en het Paard van Sinterklaas
Rams
La rançon de la gloire (Xavier Beauvois over)
RANDOM HEARTS
RANGO
Rânia
RANSOM
RAPA-NUI
RAPID FIRE
RAPUNZEL
RASPUTIN
THE RAT PACK
RAT RACE
RATATOUILLE
RATCATCHER
Ratchet & Clank
RATJETOE EN DE THORNBERRY'S: BIJ DE BEESTEN AF
RATJETOE — DE RUGRATS FILM
Die Räuberin
The Raven
RAVENOUS
Raw
RAY
Razend
THE READER (Stephen Daldry over)
THE REAL BLONDE
THE REAL HOWARD SPITZ
Real Steel
Réalité
Reality
REALITY BITES
THE REAPING
REAR WINDOW
Reasonable Doubt
REBECCA
Rebelle
Rebels
REBELS OF THE NEON GOD
Rebelse stad
THE REBIRTH
THE REBOUND
THE RECKONING
RECLAIM YOUR BRAIN (FREE RAINER)
RECONSTRUCTION
RECOUNT
THE RECRUIT
RECYCLE
RED
Red 2
RED BEADS
RED CORNER
RED DRAGON
RED DUST
RED EYE
RED HOT
Red Lights
RED PLANET
RED RIDING HOOD
RED RIDING-TRILOGIE
RED ROAD
RED ROCK WEST
THE RED SHOES
THE RED STUFF
The Red Turtle
THE RED VIOLIN
REDACTED
REDS
LE REFUGE
Refugiado
REGARDE LA MER
REGENERATION
Het regent gehaktballen 2
HET REGENT GEHAKTBALLEN 3D
Regilaul
Regression
LES REGRETS
REIGN OF ASSASSINS
REIGN OF FIRE
REINDEER GAMES
LA REINE MARGOT
DIE REISE NACH KAFIRISTAN
RELAX... IT'S JUST SEX!
THE RELIC
La religieuse
RELIGULOUS
Remainder
THE REMAINS OF THE DAY
REMBRANDT
REMBRANDT'S J'ACCUSE
Remember
REMEMBER ME
REMEMBER THE TITANS
RENAISSANCE
LES RENDEZ-VOUS DE PARIS
RENDITION
Renesse
RENO 911!: MIAMI
Renoir
RENT-A-FRIEND
Réparer les vivants
The Repentant (El Taaib)
THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS
REPO MEN
REPRISE
REQUIEM
REQUIEM FOR A DREAM
RESCUE DAWN
RESERVATION ROAD
RESERVOIR DOGS
THE RESIDENT
RESIDENT EVIL
RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE 3D
RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE
RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION
Resident Evil: Retribution
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
RESISTANCE
La résistance de l'air
RESPIRO
RESSOURCES HUMAINES
Rester vertical
Restless
RESTORATION
RESURRECTION MAN
Retour à Ithaque
THE RETURN (VOZVRASJÈNJE)
RETURN OF THE JEDI
RETURN TO HANSALA
Return to Homs (IDFA)
RETURN TO ME
RETURN TO PARADISE
De reünie
The Reunion
REVANCHE
REVELATION
The Revenant
Revenge of the Green Dragons
REVENGER'S TRAGEDY
THE REVENGERS' COMEDIES
REVISION: APOCALYPSE 2
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD
The Rewrite
REX GILDO, DE VAL VAN EEN SCHLAGERKONING
REYKJAVIK-ROTTERDAM
Rhino Season
RHYTHM IS IT
RICHARD III
RICHIE RICH
RICHTING ENGELAND
RICHTING WEST
Ricki and the Flash
RICKY
Riddick
Ride Along
Ride Along 2
RIDE WITH THE DEVIL
RIDICULE
RIDING ALONE FOR THOUSANDS OF MILES
RIDING GIANTS
RIEN À DÉCLARER
RIEN À FAIRE
DE RIETFLUIT
RIFF RAFF
RIGHTEOUS KILL
THE RING
THE RING 2
THE RINGMASTER
Rings
RINGU/RING
RIO
Rio 2
RIO, EEN DAG IN AUGUSTUS CAMPO GRANDE — CENTRAL DO BRASIL
Rio: I Love You
The Riot Club
Riphagen
RIPLEY'S GAME
Ripper Street
Rise of the Guardians
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Risen
RISING SUN
RIT OVER DE GRENS
THE RITE
THE RIVER
A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT
THE RIVER WILD
DE RIVIER OKKERVIL
RIVIERA HOTEL
RIZE
RKO 281 — THE BATTLE OVER CITIZEN KANE
THE ROAD
THE ROAD (DE WEG)
THE ROAD HOME
Road North
THE ROAD TO ELDORADO
THE ROAD TO GUANTANAMO
ROAD TO PERDITION
THE ROAD TO WELLVILLE
ROAD TRIP
ROADRACERS
ROADS TO KOKTEBEL
ROB ROY
Rob the Mob
UNE ROBE D'ÉTÉ
Roberto Succo
ROBIN HOOD
ROBIN HOOD, MEN IN TIGHTS
Robinson Crusoe
Robocop
Robot & Frank
ROBOTS
ROCCO E I SUOI FRATELLI
THE ROCK
Rock of Ages
ROCK STAR
ROCK'N ROLL JUNKIE
ROCKNROLLA
ROCKY BALBOA
HET RODE KORENVELD
ROGUE ASSASSIN
Rogue One — A Star Wars Story
ROGUE TRADER
Rokjesdag
ROLE MODELS
ROMANCE
ROMANCE & CIGARETTES
ROMANCE DE VALENTÍA — ONLY THE BRAVE
ROMANZO CRIMINALE
ROMASANTA
ROMEO IS BLEEDING
ROMEO MUST DIE
ROMPER STOMPER
ROMY & MICHELE'S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION
Ron Goossens, Low-Budget Stuntman
Ronal The Barbarian
RONIN
ROOKSPOREN
Room
Room 514
ROOS REBERGEN — "WEET IK NIET ZO GOED..."
ROPE
ROSAS DANST ROSAS
LES ROSEAUX SAUVAGES
ROSENSTRASSE
ROSETTA
ROSIE: THE DEVIL IN MY HEAD
ROSINE
ROTVOS
ROUGH MAGIC
THE ROUND UP
ROUNDERS
LA ROUTE
ROUTE IRISH
The Rover
A Royal Affair
A Royal Night Out
THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS
RR
RUBBER
RUBY & QUENTIN
Ruby Sparks
RUDO Y CURSI
RUDYARD KIPLING'S THE JUNGLE BOOK
RUGRATS IN PARIS
RUHR
THE RUINS
THE RULES OF ATTRACTION
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
The Rum Diary
RUMBA
RUMBLE IN THE BRONX
RUMOR HAS IT...
Run All Night
Run and Jump
RUN, FAT BOY, RUN
RUNAWAY BRIDE
THE RUNAWAY JURY
THE RUNAWAYS
RUNDSKOP
The Runner
Runner, Runner
RUNNING SCARED
Rush
RUSH HOUR
RUSH HOUR 2
RUSH HOUR 3
RUSHMORE
DE RUSLUI
RUSSIAN ARK
Ruth & Alex