LFF 2020 – Undine (2020) Review

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Christian Petzold (Phoenix, Transit) continues his rich run of form with the intense romantic fantasy Undine.

When we meet Undine, she is being broken up with by her boyfriend who has met someone else. Initially unable to process the news, she calmly tells him that if he does indeed call it off, she will have to kill him. She goes to work but when she returns to confront him, she has accidental encounter with Christoph, leading to a passionate affair.

Petzold reunites the leads from his previous film Transit, Paula Beer and Franz Rogowski, and the natural chemistry the two have with each other is magnetic.

Diving head over heels (or over fins) for each other, the two lovers both have a deep affinity for the water. Christoph is an industrial diver and Undine is well…

The legend of Undine is a mythological water nymph who becomes human when she falls in love with a man but is doomed to die if he is unfaithful to her.

It is not as blantant and overt as other aquatic amorous relationships The Shape Of Water or The Little Mermaid. Instead the audience are left to their own imaginations as to Undine’s true nature. Is she indeed a water nymph or simply a jealous and damaged woman?

The writer-director uses the duality of water to heighten the emotional connection between the two characters. Water can evoke the feeling of safety within the womb as a baby. At the same time, it can be deadly if not respected.

Like someone trying to swim against the current, Undine finds herself unable to escape her past and fate. When the bubble of the relationship is threatened, the stage is set for tragedy like the Grimmest of fairy tales.

By keeping the waters surrounding her origins suitably murky, Undine manages to successfully swim the line between erotic thriller and dark fantasy.

Film Rating: ★★★☆☆

Director: Christian Petzold
Stars: Paula Beer, Franz Rogowski,
Runtime: 90 minutes
Country: Germany

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