By J Simpson.
You’re either going to love Softness Of Bodies or you’re going to hate it. Some reviewers call it “a frustrating watch,” due to the main character’s “entitlement and narcissism.” Others liken it to “a really bad wreck that you just have to see as you pass by it,” lamenting the character’s lack of development,” asking the question, “Is a movie about a self-destructive character something I should watch?”
In this case, the answer is: yes. If you can handle kind-of aimless indie drama about lost youth in Berlin and their weirdly scrabbling, scribbling lives that is.
Softness Of Bodies mostly orbits Charlotte Parks, “Charlie,” an American poet living in Berlin, scratching out an existence while she aspires to a poetry grant, played liked an unlit firecracker by the delightfully droll Dasha Nekrasova. She rides a bicycle, smokes hand-rolled cigarettes, is a barista. She’s also a kleptomaniac, is having an affair, and is probably a narcissus.
Charlie spends her days pilfering high-end boutiques, upgrading her all-too-chic wardrobe. Charlie steals everything, though. This begins to have ramifications immediately.
She gets busted shoplifting and suddenly has to raise 800 euro. She also finds out she’s up for a prestigious poetry grant and that she’s competing against her poetic rival, Sylvie (Nadine DuBois).We begin to meet the network of people surrounding Charlie at this point, as well. Her gay best friend roommate Remo (Johannes Frick) and his search for love. Her boyfriend Franz (Moritz Vierboom), who happens to be married. Charlie’s photographer ex-boyfriend Oliver (Morgan Krantz) shows up from L.A., complicating matters further.
Things begin to topple fairly quickly, although Charlie’s already been starting to unravel, at this point. Not that you’d ever know it. Nekrasova’s Charlie is cool as a glass of Grey Goose on ice; as unreadable as a November lake. She appears untroubled, while trouble spirals all around her.
Charlie steals a pair of shoes from Franz’s house, ultimately tipping off his wife, Marianne (Lena Reinhold) to their affair. Oliver’s seducing Charlie’s contemporaries, meanwhile, getting close to her life. Franz leaves his wife on a whim, moving into Charlie’s flat unannounced. All the while, Charlie’s still trying to raise the money to pay her court fee and write her grant poem. She’s working her barista job and hosting poetry readings at night.
Outside her apartment, Marianne punches Charlie in the face, and the final dominos begin to fall.
Softness Of Bodies final third explodes, the dry powder keg tension of all the proceeding ugliness and messiness. And yet, still, you never see it coming. And it’s not the full point of the film, anyway.
Joel Blady’s poetic, cinematic, steamy, sleazy, tawdry, wonderful debut ends with Charlie reading her poem to the grant board, an original composition of Dasha Nekrasova’s, who supplied all the film’s poetry. It reads like a laundry list of all the happy things that money can buy – lilacs and silks and cuts of red, marbled meat. It reads like a litany of desire, and ends with a shrug.
Other reviewers have talked about how Softness Of Bodies revolves around Charlie, and it does, but not entirely. She is a poet, a wordsmith, a psychic dowser, giving voice to the unspoken cravings and desires of what unfolds around her. The question was asked “should we watch films about self-destructive characters?” and the answer is “Do self-destructive characters exist?”
An earlier reviewer referred to Softness Of Bodies’ “millennial navel-gazing.” They’re not wrong. But while Lena Dunham once called herself, annoying, “the voice of a generation,” perhaps, then, this film could be the zen nihilistic cosmic Tumblr epiphany that shakes you to your core at 3 a.m.
The devils are in the details with Softness Of Bodies. There’s fine performances all around, with props once again to Dasha Nekrasova. She’s the embodiment of slack, detached self-obsessed creation. She moves like an arrow through life, like her trusted bike, with which “she shares a spiritual connection.” And while Charlie may be expressing and emoting for the people, places, and things, this is her story, at the end of the day. It’s a fascinating window into a not-exactly-likeable character, that is still rivetingly watchable.
The cinematography is wonderful, as well, casting Berlin in a faded nocturnal glow, giving a timeless, worn quality to what unfolds. Stylish, tense, incredibly well-acted, exquisitely produced, Softness Of Bodies is a triumph and a poetic evocation of a lost generation.
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