Archive for Dominik Graf

The Lights are Going Out

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , on March 27, 2020 by dcairns


Dominik Graf is this really interesting director of, largely, German crime shows. He and his favourite writers have really advanced the form. But his feature films tend not to do well.

My theory about why is that Graf is too in love with the fashionable tools of the moment — his TV shows all date fast, due to the visual tricks deployed, though this dating doesn’t really hurt them as entertainment. His up-to-the-minute stylistic flourishes, which show up in the colour correction, the fonts, the transitions, seem to militate against whatever “cinematic” means. I liked his 2014 BELOVED SISTERS but the pastel lettering splattered all over it was an abomination, and it was hard to understand how such an intelligent and nifty filmmaker could commit such an abomination.

So naturally he loves drones and they’re all over his latest TV work, Die Lüge, die wir Zukunft nennen, an episode of Polizeiruf 110. Hey, I love drones too, but something tells me the gratuitous use of them is going to age fast, and they’re CERTAINLY gratuitous here. Though one is grateful for spacious photography at this historical moment, even if it is of Munich.

Plot: a unit of cops is ordered to run surveillance on a company suspected of insider trading. The cops realize that the information they’re getting allows them a chance to get in on the action, and they start insider trading too. Then Internal Affairs start investigating the investigators and the team breaks up in acrimony, leading to OTT mayhem. It’s all delivered at the rattling pace Graf has increasingly perpetrated, barreling through confusion into sheer hysteria. Very satisfying and at times horrifying to watch.

There’s one masterstroke that owes nothing to fashion. A character is dying. There’s a lot going on: they ask him whether he wants to be buried or cremated and, delirious, he says “Surprise me.”

Graf cuts rapidly between every major room we’ve seen him in in the show, but they’re now empty. And the lights blink out, and the omnipresent computer screens go blank.


Beautiful, bleak.

The screenplay is by Günter Schütter.

Thanks to Hannu Nuotio.

An Earful of Rain

Posted in FILM with tags , , on March 24, 2018 by dcairns

So I should soon be finished my side-job of watching movies for the Edinburgh International Film Festival, which seems to have been even more exhausting than usual. I might not do it again, even though the money is always nice. I’ve been wanting to binge on Dominik Graf krimi TV and I can’t because I have to binge on NEW STUFF. But after Monday that should be winding down.

I did watch Graf’s The Invisible Girl — Das Unsichtbare Madchen, a 2011 Graf TV movie which boasts a typically twisty and dark plot involving police AND political corruption, murder, and child prostitution. The hero is a copper under a cloud, previously accused of sleeping with an underaged witness, and while the script makes his innocence incontestably clear, Graf’s montage (oh, the story is set in the town of Eisenstein) keeps implying that he’s fighting paedophile urges the whole time. The film also features imagery of the child sex-slaves that would NEVER be allowed in British or US TV, or so I’d think.

(It’s not gratuitous: again, it points up the hero’s weakness — but the question is, is such imagery justifiable even with a good dramatic reason? In the UK, in the current climate, most would say not.)

If you can overlook that — and it does give me pause — the film is compelling and nervy, with restless pans to create tension (nobody else seems to do this like Graf) and odd moments that might be references to the famous filmmaker who shares a name with the setting — a crash zoom on a stuffed fox head during a sex scene is pretty peculiar. It doesn’t feel quite like an homage to the stone lions of POTEMKIN or the peacock automaton of OCTOBER, but who am I to say?

A grisly detail — the inciting incident is the discovery of a corpse in a rainstorm (and the person who finds her is the cop hero, which is the kind of nonsense I’ll only forgive because it’s Graf). The dead woman’s ear is full of rainwater. I think that kidney-shaped pool in her ear-well is probably the loneliest body of water ever photographed for German television.

Sister Akte

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on June 27, 2014 by dcairns

Beloved Sisters still 4

BELOVED SISTERS, at nearly three hours, is a proper arse-marathon, and the lower back was feeling hard-done-by after hours in Filmhouse 3 watching Domenik Graf films all week. Fortunately this was his new film and thus got an upgrade to Odeon 2, where the seats exert a differing, slightly less intense set of discomforts. When I suggested a three hour film about the love live of Schiller, Fiona said — well, I won’t say what she said but it was in the negative and had “fuck” in it. This despite the fact that she’d heard my glowing reports of other Graf works and was curious to try one.

Once more, she missed out, as the movie was lively, well-observed and entertaining. Graf had told me that the film represented the third strand of his work, the Eric Rohmer side, contrasting with the fast genre stuff (DIE KATZE) and equally fast and furious social realist side (Hotte in Paradise). A quite accurate summary, and the movie also shows his love of Truffaut’s period/literary films. And it goes like a train — it doesn’t have the out-of-control momentum of something like Eine Stadt Wird Erpresst (A City is Blackmailed) whose throat-grip and cannonball velocity leaves the viewer both shaken and elated — but it doesn’t hang about either.

(PLOT: Poet Schiller falls in love with two sisters; a menage a trois is attempted; meanwhile, the French Revolution and the development of the printing press.)

Beloved Sisters still 2

Graf spoke of his deliberately flat filming style, avoiding steadicam pursuits and all those tricks whereby directors try to show that the past was as lively as today, and avoid theatricality. By contrast, Graf feels like people saw the world in more flat ways then (the stage, and paintings were their references, rather than AVATAR) and he avoids stiffness via his rapid pace (no fear of crash zooms), imaginative and surprising framing, and the naturalism of the perfs. Nobody behaves like characters in a historical drama. The language is classical, but the reactions, body language and everything else reminds us of us.

The only thing I was baffled by was the typography — Graf introduces temporal jumps (the story covers fifteen years) with titles which drift and zoom about restlessly — one even swoops down and up and at us like the famous STAR WARS main title. And they’re all in a faux-stencil font, in unpleasant not-quite pastel colours. Defiantly un-period and ill-suited to everything around them, as if Graf wanted to scribble a moustache on his own Mona Lisa, or irritate slightly just those people who normally enjoy quality period drama. Perhaps his punk side reasserting itself? Perversity is the noblest impulse.