Edinburgh International Film Festival 2012: Home for the Weekend

Coming off the back of an acclaimed showcase at the Berlin Film Festival Home for the Weekend, directed by iconoclastic German filmmaker Hans Christian Schmid (Requiem) arrives in Edinburgh with high expectations. And it doesn’t disappoint. Sticking to similar themes explored in his previous works Schmid has a crafted an elegant and stylish film that taps into the physiological mind set of an upper middle class suburban family. When Berlin based writer Marko (Lars Eidinger) returns home with his 10 year old son Zowie (Egon Merten) to see his parents and his older dentist brother (Sebastain Zimmler) things take a turn for the worse when matriarch Gitte (Corinna Harfouch) who’s been battling depression for decades announces plans to come off her medication. What follows is an exquisitely played out meditation on grief and regret.

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Home for the Weekend is first and foremost an intimate character study. Each member of the family is gifted with plenty of space to breathe and develop allowing the actor’s a wonderful opportunity to craft fully rounded portrayals. There’s definitely an air of Bergman about Schmid’s film, the ways in which the mental states of the characters are ruthlessly examined until each reach their own breaking point and explode. The tasteful exterior of affluent European life is smashed to pieces here. As the cracks start to break through the surface and long kept secrets begin to make themselves known the film takes on elements of a thriller as Gitte wakes up one morning, sets the table and runs off into the woods. Home for the Weekend is the kind of beautiful, understated drama that Michael Haneke could make if he only stopped trying to torture his audience into submission.

Schmid and DP Bogumil Godfrejow create a simple but effective visual style, favouring long edits where the full grasp of the screenplay’s complexities can be appreciated. Natural lighting gently envelops the action in the soft tints of the summer sun as the emotionally distant family wander through the gorgeous glass house like lonely spirits unable to move on to the next world. There’s a sumptuous minimalist sheen to the films’ exterior, it’s in the house itself, the costumes worn by the characters and the framing of the camera where the actors are treated like figures in classical portraiture. The palette is primarily neutral tones, plenty of whites and grey adding to this ominous mood that is desperately kept at bay.

The performance by the cast is one of the strongest parts of the film. Eidinger is superb as the naïve Marko, meekly trying to hold together a broken marriage and a fragile relationship with his older brother. Eidinger and Zimmler have great chemistry together and the difficult rapport between the two is expertly played out: two very different siblings, who not surprisingly butt heads on how best to cope with their mother. Gitte is the beating heart of the film and the great German actress Corinna Harfouch reflects this with a masterful turn full of grace, hinting but never fully showing the dark past her character has endured.

 

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