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The Forest for the Trees

(Der Wald vor lauter Bäumen)
Germany 2003. Dir: Maren Ade. 81 min. 35mm

“Marvellous ... A tartly comic tale of teachers on the verge of a nervous breakdown ... For a college project, it’s astonishing.”

35mm PRINT | Maren Ade’s fantastic debut feature, winner of a Special Jury Prize at Sundance, is a compactly-crafted, disarmingly-honest account of an idealistic young teacher drifting comically out of her professional and personal depths. That it was Ade’s thesis project as a student at the Munich Academy for Film and Television — completed when she was just 26 — makes its maturity and directorial aplomb all the more impressive. Melanie (played with cringe-worthy perfection by Eva Löbau) is a mousey twentysomething hoping for a fresh start in southwest Germany after being offered a teaching post mid-year. She begins to unravel when her progressive but undisciplined teaching style fails, her colleagues ostracize her, and her disastrous misreadings of a trendy neighbour’s social cues jeopardize a desperately sought-after female friendship. Shot on digital video in Ade’s hometown of Karlsruhe (where both her parents work as teachers), the film has a lo-fi, home-movie quality that adds to its intimacy, unease, and unexpectedly sublime denouement.


“This insightful, affecting, and tightly-realised piece bodes well for Maren Ade’s future career ... A commanding lead performance by Eva Löbau.”

Screen Daily | full review