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January 29, 2014

Alle Anderen

by Franz Patrick


Alle Anderen (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★

Chris (Lars Eidinger) and Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr) are on vacation in Sardinia but neither seems to be having fun. Although Gitti is game for adventures, Chris walks around with a heavy head, steering conversations toward his career as an architect, if Gitti thinks he is masculine enough, and whether to take on a job to reconstruct a villa. When they come across a couple, Hans (Hans-Jochen Wagner) and Sana (Nicole Marischka), the former being Chris’ acquaintance with whom he wishes to avoid, in the supermarket, the negativity simmering between Chris and Gitti threatens the foundation of their relationship.

Written and directed by Maren Ade, “Alle Anderen” is an exercise in staring at a blank wall with two dots on it and determining, using nothing but our imagination, not only the relationship between them but also what makes them tick. This is a good thing. With so many movies about relationships, romantic or otherwise, that tend to spell out every plot point and character detail for the sake of the audience’s convenience, this is a breath of fresh air. Since the picture does not have much plot, I was able to construct several hypotheses in terms of what is possibly going on.

One of my wild theories involves Chris possibly considering to undergo a gender reassignment program. There are plenty of clues that touches upon his insecurities. Aside from the conversation about his masculinity, there are times when he does not like to be touched a certain way, citing excuses like he is “trying to read.” When eyes are on him on an intimate level, I could feel a part of him crumble, wanting to hide his face and body, to walk away with an unbearable shame.

Perhaps most important is his choice of Gitti as a girlfriend. She is rough, a bit masculine, and at times vulgar. Although I found her very entertaining, the type of person that I tend to get along with, there are times when I felt that Chris is jealous of her devil-may-care way of carrying herself. It seems like he considers her as an embodiment of freedom while he feels imprisoned, always having to check if something is an appropriate thing to do or say.

Over time, I grew protective of Gitti because Chris’ ways of dealing with his insecurities—that is, often lashing out on Gitti in a very passive-aggressive manner—is not at all healthy in any relationship. But then again perhaps my interpretation reveals more about myself than what the picture is “really” about.

I admired that the writer-director has the confidence to essentially drop us in the middle of a desert and dares us to find our way as she provides enough clues to sustain our minds instead of guiding us to think a certain way. For example, there are two other couples that Chris and Gitti meet during their vacation. The aforementioned couple, Hans and Sana, are very refined, drinking expensive wine as they converse about careers and worldly things.

On the other hand, the couple with a boat are stereotypically less well-to-do, from their imperfect teeth to their style of clothing. Chris has more similarities with the rich couple while Gitti relates more with the less well-off. Is Ade attempting to make a statement about the division of class through the unhappy couple?

“Everyone Else” is likely to frustrate those who require a defined track not only in terms of plot but also emotional cues through music. Some jokes or situations that the characters consider funny are serious to me—and vice-versa. I looked at them in puzzlement at times and yet I could not look away.

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