The Forest for the Trees

Director: Maren Ade
Year Released: 2003
Rating: 3.0

A budding schoolteacher's lack of social refinement leads to her isolation in this auspicious debut by German filmmaker Ade. Though the appearance is a bit distracting - it's over-lit in parts and looks more like a documentary than a fiction film - the writing and lead performance (by Eva Loebau) are both astoundingly nuanced, as the tenuous main character comes across both as pathetic and self-defeating and a victim; the final symbolic shot of her stepping out from behind the wheel of her car suggests that she's no longer in control of her own destiny or mind. For those curious, it's also one of the most uncomfortably accurate depictions of what many first-year teachers have to deal with in the classroom with the children and with the (sometimes unsympathetic) other teachers - Ade's mother is apparently a teacher, and the stories her mother told her had to have formed the basis for that component of the story (certainly not bullshit like Hollywood and the publishing world generally spew). If this turns out to be the weakest picture in Ade's filmography, get those awards and Thumbs Up ready.