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QUIET AS A MOUSE (Marcus Mittermeier - Germany 2004)
This low-budget film from director Marcus Mittermeier and writer Henrik-Jan Stahlberg was one of the biggest surprises in German cinema of 2004. Recently I saw it again (after seeing it in the cinema for the first time) and it still holds up beautifully.
The main character Mux, played by Henrik Jan Stahlberg, is on a personal vendetta against small crime, like vandalism, shoplifting and pornography. He tries to educate people in behaving like good citizens again, but at the same time forcefully imposing his own view of the world on them in order to educate them. Shot as a pseudo-documentary, the usage of the hand-held camera is perfectly integrated in the story as the main character is patrolling the streets of Berlin with his assistant Gerd, who is operating the camera in order to film their actions. Mux is cultured, intelligent and well mannered, but his major flaw is his incapability imagining other people may not share his world-view. His lack of trust in other people also affects his love life, or the fact that he hasn't got one. He soon estranges the one girl he likes, because he thinks he's got to protect her from... what? He doesn't really seem to know himself. Off course his actions on the streets of Berlin are wrong and most of the time he is annoying, but somehow it's hard to dislike him.
Henrik Jan Stahlberg carries the movie almost single handedly with a fascinating performance. One of the few examples of a writer who can make a good performance out of his own material and in this case Stahlberg fits the role of Mux perfectly. Although the makers clearly are trying to incorporate a message in the film, it never becomes heavy handed. Together with a very dark sense of humor, that seems to come completely natural in most of the scenes, the film is never forced or straining for effect. Many of the confrontations between Mux and his "victims" come out as quite touching as well, especially the scene with the elderly man being caught whilst buying ch*ld p*rnography and the one where Mux starts singing in a poor folks café. A beautiful and very touching scene.
The soundtrack is another asset. According to the mood of the scene, the same composition is used in different ways, from up-tempo house to classical music. The love of Berlin is also apparent, throughout the film there are shots of the city. A beautifully sharply written commentary of contemporary Germany. Cynical, but with a refreshing sense of humor. Considering the modest means the makers had at their disposal during the making of this film, it's one of the best German films in years.
Camera Obsura --- 10/10
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