It’s fascinating to note the remarkable consistency in Petzold’s filmography, both in his thematic choices – clinical, and oftentimes metaphorical, deconstruction of contemporary German past – and tonal palettes – detached, understated, downbeat and unsettling. In the viscerally troubling Yella, he crafted a subtle, intriguing mix of realism and allegory for decidedly mordant commentaries on capitalism in action, the conveniently one-sided popular representations of the two erstwhile Germanys, and the fault-lines that remain post reunification. The stunning, ambitious and self-assured Yella (Nina Hoss) decides to leave the sleepy former East German town of Wittenberge for greener pastures in Hanover to take up a lucrative job offer and in turn flee from her obsessed ex-husband Ben (Hinnerk Schönemann) who she’d left after his business venture went south. Her journey to the West suffers two consecutive blows – Ben, while dropping her to the station, drives the car off a bridge; and then, upon somehow escaping unhurt and reaching her destination, she finds herself that the man who’d hired her has got fired on corruption charges. Fortunately a new vista opens up for her when Philipp (Devid Striesow), a high-flying venture capitalist who puts the screws on vulnerable companies, takes her on board after she displays rare acumen for exploiting those vulnerabilities. Though they make for a fabulous pair for a while – armed with spreadsheets and gamesmanship, and living in identikit business hotels – things take an ominous turn when it emerges that the volatile Phillip is skimming from his firm for a dubious side investment, leading to a startling denouement. Hoss was striking and brilliant as the doe-eyed, canny, guilt-striken protagonist who glibly conflates a spare, bleak, over-sanitized atmosphere with the realization of her dreams.
Director: Christian Petzold
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama