SPECIAL SCREENING Dreileben: Don’t Follow Me Around
Dreileben: Don’t Follow Me Around was screened at the 55th BFI London Film Festival, which was staged between 12th and 27th October 2011.
The second in the Three Lives trilogy for German television, Don’t Follow Me Around returns to the town of Dreileben, and overlaps with the first entry. Directed this time by Dominik Graf and shot on film (unlike the previous entry), Don’t Follow Me Around continues the same themes but tells a very different story.
Jo is a psychologist, working with the police, called to Dreileben to help with the capture of the escaped criminal seen in Beats Being Dead, as well as another mission she’s been asked to carry out.
Leaving her young daughter with her parents, Jo’s reservation at a local hotel has been double-booked and she ends up having to stay with an old friend, Vera, and her husband.
Pressures at work begin to mount with the escapee proving elusive and hostility from the local police force causing problems for Jo. But as Jo and Vera reminisce about lost loves, it becomes clear that the two of them shared heartbreak in the past, and it threatens their present relationship…
As this trilogy was made as such, comparisons between entries can’t be helped, and the fact that the same characters are also glimpsed makes it almost impossible to forget the previous film while watching this one. But while the themes may be similar, the presentation is very different, and the story, as a whole, stands on its own.
We open with Jo and her young daughter. The ease with which the two communicate is immediately apparent, and, over the course of the film, it becomes clear that theirs is the only relationship not to be strained, with no skeletons in cupboards to come between them (although the absence of a father makes things more complicated). Every relationship in the film, in a similar manner to the first, has pressure put upon it from the outside. Jo’s relationship with her parents, with Vera and her husband (indeed, between the married couple also), and with the police she is both assisting and investigating. Not that Don’t Follow Me Around is about relationships as such, but there is obviously a link here.
In the first film, we followed Johannes and the strange relationship he formed with Ana; here we see one person and a whole host of bonds that break, reform, strain, and break again. The relationship between people and nature is again explored, although with considerably less style than in Beats Being Dead. Once again, we have a scene with full frontal nudity in the great outdoors, while being watched by the escapee (named as Molesch). There are also several scenes involving animals that are heard but not seen, shot almost as if it were a horror, disturbing Jo. They cause disturbances in the undergrowth; at times, creating a sense of unease that reminds us of what is potentially out there. The very location of the house Vera owns, in the forest, in a state of disrepair, is also a reminder of the fragile equilibrium between humans and the world around them, or, perhaps more accurately, Dreileben and the world around it.
Don’t Follow Me Around comes across as an uneven mix of drama and police procedural.
Where Beats Being Dead was a surprising thriller in that it was composed of elements of the unexpected, be they the characters actions, use of colour and score, or plot developments, Don’t Follow Me Around comes across as an uneven mix of drama and police procedural. Jo’s dual mission in Dreileben has its moments of tension, but the extended scenes of wine-drenched reminiscences that are the core of the film feel stretched and lacking somewhat. Initially peppered with humour and an edge of unease, these scenes soon become a little too much like a soap opera, as we find out about the love of both Jo and Vera’s young life, and the possible identity of Jo’s daughter.
Fortunately, these scenes of strained relationships are played superbly by all the performers, making the slightly weak drama more bearable. The police procedural elements are also handled well. An overlapping scene featuring Johannes and Ana in the hotel, while an apprehension takes place, links nicely, and adds some much needed urgency to a film which lacks a dynamic touch. The final capture of Molesch, however, is something of a disappointment, revealing little in terms of character, and with none of the release of tension that you would expect from his constant, threatening presence. But then, maybe, that is the point. If it is, though, then the ending seems somewhat out of character, returning where we began and attempting to leave the viewer with a warm glow, as we witness, once again, the relationship that can’t be touched, no matter what new information we learn.
It’s strangely dissatisfying to see, after the emotional and physical conflicts, that life outside Dreileben doesn’t seem to have been effected at all. This effect is a world away from the almost shattering conclusion (or lack of conclusion) to the first entry. As mentioned, it may be a different film, but the links and the overlaps make comparison almost compulsory, and, unfortunately, Don’t Follow Me Again isn’t up to the same standard.
This lack of satisfaction can be forgiven as this is only the second part of the trilogy. While not as engrossing, or interesting as its predecessor, Don’t Follow Me Around is a good film in its own right, and it does the job of leading us into part three admirably.
It may be lacking in the areas that made Beats Being Dead something special, but part two does have its charms. Well acted, competently directed and with some nice touches, it stands up on its own, but this works far better as the middle section of a trilogy. Weaker than the first, it nevertheless gives us hope that this German television event will end with something remarkable. Let us hope it does.
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