Ondeh … Legend, love and city in the best films of Berlin competition so far | Ahmad Shawqi


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Posted Date: Wednesday, 26 February 2020 – 11:43 | Last update: Wednesday, February 26, 2020 – 11:43 PM

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        In Greek mythology, "Undine" is a fictional creature who came from the sea to live on earth. She can fall in human love, with one condition: if her lover betrays her, he must kill him and return to the water. As for "Christian" Petzold, "Ondne", and in the first scene her lover tells her that he is leaving her for another woman, she calmly replies that if he leaves her, she will have to kill him!<p>Petzold does not hide the legendary source of the story of his movie participating in the international competition for the seventy Berlin International Film Festival, but it takes the narrative adventure that he fought in his previous movie "Transit" to another level. "Transit" was a story about the escape from Nazism, which was portrayed by the director in contemporary times. As for "Ondeh", it is a myth that revolves in the present day, and it requires a lot of effort (and some knowledge of mythology, perhaps) to be familiar with its dimensions.

Onde, a young historian, works for the Berlin municipality in a job that is to give brief lectures on the architectural history of the German capital, and how the city’s buildings evolved through the eras influenced by political realities. Her boyfriend leaves her in the first scene as we indicated, to live moments of imbalance before she meets another man, who works as a diver (note the connection with water), to enter with him a relationship that runs on the boundary between love and sensuality, until the water causes what causes her to notice that she has an issue that did not end distance.

Freeing from the past and relying on it
Christian Petzold is finally freed from the facts of the past (Nazism, tales of the Holocaust and East Berlin obsession) that were the main pillars of his last trio “Barbara”, “Phoenix” and “Transit”. But liberation is closer to indulging. It is true that neither the Holocaust nor the Jews escaping the Gestapo nor the phobia of communism, but the past here is the source of everything, is the essence that makes the story of Ondeh greater than a contemporary treatment of an ancient myth, but rather makes women equal to the city. Ondeenne is Berlin whose past formulated, or to be precise, aspects that changed one era after another.


In one of the movie’s most important scenes, while Ondeh (Paula Pierre, the new inspector of Petzold) prepares to make love with her alternative lover (Frentz Rogovsky, who co-starred with “Transit”), he surprises her by asking him to hear the lecture she was practicing. “You say smart things beautifully,” explains the request. While Ondeh tells him the story of a building whose historical nature has changed, it becomes a German equivalent to Sheherazade the Arabian Nights: embodied the thinner and harshest of the story, capturing the core and making the strongest men captive to the legendary woman / city.

Like all the big films, it is impossible to come out with a direct reading. Here you will not find a reading by Petzold of the past embodied in symbolic personalities, only a great ruling idea that we should not break from being in our context. Love and hatred, weakness and strength, betrayal and loyalty, reality and myth are all matters, even if they are absolute, they are not suspended in the air, but are closely related to its location, Berlin, the real hero of the film, and its time that does not stop changing the conditions of the city / heroine. Like the permanent heroines of Petzold, a phoenix repeatedly dies only to emerge from the ashes with a new face, stronger and more radiant.

Species crossing and its impact
Gracefully narrator of skilled stories Petzold in Ondeh moves between the genres non-stop, from romance to fantasy drama to comedy, the filmmaker does not care at all about the place in which he will be placed, only the most difficult game, that every moment possesses the general atmosphere and the effect appropriate to it specifically, A bet that the sequence of moments brilliantly crafted is sufficient to present a total painting whose strangeness exceeds only the tenacity of those elements and their ability to take us to a parallel world. A world that resembles ours and streets that resemble the ones we travel between (the film could not have been shown at a festival other than Berlin), but it has a mythical essence, and reality and myth blend a name we all know: history!

Human history is a series of love relationships that turn out for revenge, and his affection is bound to embody this history, if not human. Something in the way she moves and speaks suggests that, Paula Pierre, a brilliant beauty, unleashes femininity with an unfamiliar taste. Non-human senses, even if she wears formal clothes. And while her first lover, Uhanas, possesses all of the handsome, seductive and sometimes dirty men, the alternative lover Christophe embodies masculinity in its virgin, childish sense of his youth, who wants to annihilate and surrender within a relationship that does not suffer from it, but it came too late.


And if Ondeh was a water creature that came from the water and her destiny was linked to it, the great director is good at using it as an always-present visual motif, reaching the height of her freshness in a scene known as Ondeh Kristov, and retreating to its lowest levels in the scene of revenge similar to American horror movies (perhaps the only scene outside the context of Terms of implementation). But it remains a clear and conscious choice from a multi-read story tale expert.

The Petzold movie can be received on more than one level, you can consider it a romantic movie about love and its unfair paradoxes, or a mythological work on the mythical aspect of human life, or you can see it as a reading in human history in general, and the history of the German capital in particular.

In the Berlinale 70 competition, which has still not kept its promises and brought us a lot of amazing works, “Ondeh” remains the most complete and influential work, hoping that the remaining days of the festival will show us more.

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