Cor­po­rate night­mare

YELLA

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews - DON­ALD CLARKE

IT’S NOT of­ten you en­counter a film – or, rather, a good one – that you can con­fi­dently de­scribe as sui generis. The latest pic­ture from Chris­tian Pet­zold, the Ger­man di­rec­tor of such in­sid­i­ous de­lights as The State I Am In, is a small-scale work that still man­ages to zip through a be­wil­der­ing ar­ray of gen­res and take in a variety of tones dur­ing its eco­nomic 89 min­utes.

Lay­ered with the sort of psy­cho­log­i­cal co­nun­drums you would ex­pect from a Ruth Ren­dell story, Yella be­gins as a drama of abuse and pur­suit, then leans a lit­tle to­wards David Lynch ter­ri­tory, be­fore drag­ging us into a tale of cor­rup­tion among soul­less busi­ness­men. Only the melo­dra­matic end­ing, which is only half as clever as it be­lieves it­self to be, trav­els through overly familiar ter­ri­tory.

The dis­arm­ingly fo­cused Nina Hoss plays Yella, a young busi­ness­woman on the run from a se­ries of per­sonal mis­eries. The open­ing scenes find her say­ing good­bye to her dad be­fore head­ing off for a new life and a new job in Hanover. Leav­ing house, she en­coun­ters her ex­hus­band, a vi­o­lent lu­natic who has not taken kindly to the break up, and, in­tim­i­dated by his barely con­tained ag­gres­sion, ac­cepts a lift to the sta­tion. On the way, he be­gins ar­gu­ing with her and, fi­nally blow­ing his top, drives his car through a fence and into the river.

To this point, Yella has been a largely nat­u­ral­is­tic piece of work. When the car hits the wa­ter, how­ever, things turn pe­cu­liar. Yella emerges from the river, makes her way to the sta­tion and, still con­spic­u­ously drip­ping, climbs on the train for Hanover. It later tran­spires that her new job is not as se­cure as she had thought and she be­comes drawn into a se­ries of puz­zling fi­nan­cial deals car­ried out in bland ho­tels and the front seat of mo­tor­cars.

Punc­tu­at­ing the suf­fo­cat­ing drab­ness of busi­ness life with trou­blingly odd sound de­sign and idyllic shots of na­ture, Yella quickly takes on the qual­ity of a dead­ened night­mare. Like the most pow­er­ful of bad dreams, it in­vites close anal­y­sis, but never quite yields up its se­crets. Which is a long-winded way of say­ing it is worth watch­ing more than twice.

Di­rected by Chris­tian Pet­zold. Star­ring Nina Hoss, De­vid Striesow, Hin­nerk Schöne­mann, Burghart Klauss­ner, Bar­bara Auer

Nina Hoss as Yella

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