Different Kinds of Rain: A (locked) room of one’s own
by Gonzalo Suárez
- In her feature-length fiction debut, which has world-premiered at Tallinn Black Nights, Isa Prahl confronts a well-off family with its own impotence
Isa Prahl has presented Different Kinds of Rain [+see also:
interview: Isa Prahl
film profile] in the First Feature Competition of the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. The movie is a social and family drama that revolves around a locked door inside a family home. The template for the whole film is already visible right from the first scene: a father, mother and sister gather on the landing in front of the door of the son’s room, Mike’s room, to sing him happy birthday. An indifferent Mike responds by cranking his music up to full blast. His parents, in turn, shout their congratulatory message to try to make themselves heard.
And thus begins an exchange of humiliations in the heart of the family, and in the respective surroundings of each of its members. The sister, Miriam (Emma Bading), is a teenager who has her ups and downs with Elli (Janina Fautz), her biggest confidante in private matters and, at the same time, her biggest sexual rival. The father, Thomas’ (Bjarne Mädel) frustrations before the Door spill over into the care of his disabled patients, in particular a wheelchair user who has lost the power of speech. While waiting for Mike, the mother, Susanne (Bibiana Beglau), substitutes her absent son with the figure of Oliver (Louis Hofmann), one of his old school friends.
The conflicts both inside and outside the house alternate with the actions performed in front of this unexpected wailing wall. The son takes advantage of their unassailable respect for privacy to do the things he needs to do to stay alive, and which keep the protagonists on tenterhooks (when they don’t let him go to the bathroom on his own, for example, he urinates into a bottle). The only replies he delivers are silences or nuggets of information on the rain in Ohio (where family members and neighbours are told the boy is, in order to explain his absence). The accomplished sobriety of the mise-en-scène and the fine balance between the three individual ways of expressing desperation (more violent and provocative in the father’s case, more personal and emotional in the mother’s, and more childish and rebellious in the daughter’s) do not prevent the screenplay (penned by Karin Kaci) from occasionally becoming predictable and implausible at the same time.
Nevertheless, the decision to keep the enigmatic locked door shrouded in mystery proves to be a wise move that holds the viewer’s interest and, above all, invites coded interpretations – readings that Prahl could have been intending to a greater or lesser extent. The meatiest interpretation, in this critic's opinion, would produce a kind of pessimistic Protestant allegory: much like a god, the son proves to be out of reach; the doors of Heaven on Earth, located in the property, are under lock and key; the Protestants, who have no positive role model, intermediary church or decree of punishment, sin repeatedly and irremediably, and this broken and simultaneously imprisoned family realises that it needs to cut the cord and flee to nowhere in particular to stop everything from descending into Hell on Earth.
It should come as no surprise that Different Kinds of Rain is a Made in Germany production.
(Translated from Spanish)
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