LFF Review: Undine
Henry Jordan continues his coverage of the London Film Festival with a look at the classically-inflected love mystery, Undine
There’s a woman. Her name is Undine. She’s at a café with her boyfriend, who is trying to break up with her. They start arguing, it gets tense and she says she isn’t done talking but has to go to work. Before leaving, she says to him “If you leave me, I’ll have to kill you.”
The strange thing about Undine is that, even within the first five minutes, you get the creeping feeling that this is the kind of film where that may not be an empty threat. From here, we follow our lead as she falls in love with a diver who keeps having encounters with a mysterious catfish at the bottom of a dam. Their connection is immediately deep and then… Well, do you really think I’m going to spoil it?
Though it’s a beguiling watch, I can’t deny Undine has already sunk down deep into my mind
Being the failed classics student I am, I did not immediately recognise the name Undine. A quick google search illuminated it in darks of my mind, poking at my brain, putting the events of the film into perspective. I think you should try and go for a cold first viewing and then do your research afterwards. It’s not that the film is hiding a twist, but rather that it has surprises in store for those not so well versed in Ovid.
The atmosphere that director Christian Petzold crafts is one that is appropriately slippery. Without the rock solid performances to grab onto, many would find the film completely impenetrable. As Christoph the diver we have Franz Rogowski, a familiar face for fans of the one take miracle Victoria. In the politest way, he has such an odd face, making him totally cinematic. I could look at him for hours and struggle to get bored, even if he wasn’t giving a performance this great. As Undine we have Paula Beer, who I’m fond of from the underseen gem Frantz. Again, she has an air about her that makes it impossible to look away. I think it’s her deep green eyes, eyes you could drown in if you’re not careful.
Together, their chemistry makes the film float, which means you’re totally able to buy into the love story. Though it’s a beguiling watch, I can’t deny Undine has already sunk down deep into my mind.