Dear Karl | Chicago Reader

Dear Karl

Maria Knilli's first feature is a German—very German—variation on some Bressonian techniques. Karl (Ulrich Reinthaller) is a student brought up in a grim, awesomely repressive middle-class family; he's spent his whole life preparing for medical school, but when he goes away to the university—the first time he's ever been separated from his parents—he meets a girl and flips out. Knilli's images are ice-cold and almost frighteningly pristine. Though the film is concentrated exclusively on the boy, Knilli's style imposes such a sense of distance that he never becomes remotely familiar or emotionally accessible. Documenting his breakdown in a series of discrete, irreversible steps, Knilli seems to be building toward a moment of release, when the boy will realize what is happening to him and take some action. When that moment fails to arrive, the effect is almost unbearable; Knilli's pessimism is complete, uncompromised, monumental. With Hans Brenner and Krista Stadler.

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