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BERLINALE 2021 Perspektive Deutsches Kino

Review: The Seed

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- BERLINALE 2021: Mia Maariel Meyer's gritty drama is an accomplished work, and a punishing look at the cruel labour exploitation of today

Review: The Seed
Hanno Koffler (centre) in The Seed

Mia Maariel Meyer's second feature The Seed [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, screening in the Perspektive Deutsches Kino strand of this year's Berlinale, teaches the viewers a hard lesson about today's labour exploitation and societal collapse. Meyer, an alumna of Goldsmiths, University of London, debuted with her no-budget film Treppe Aufwärts [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, which premiered at the Hof International Film Festival in 2015, where it won a special mention.

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Her new movie follows a family of three, composed of Rainer Matschek (a majestic Hanno Koffler, co-writer on the film together with the director), who works for a construction company and has recently been appointed site manager for an important project; his caring wife Nadine (Anna Blomeier); and their 13-year-old daughter Doreen (Dora Zygouri). The family has recently moved into a little house in the outskirts of the town, owing to rising rents and in order to make ends meet, and the new work project he’s been assigned may be the much needed big break that Rainer's career needs. Two crucial events begin to shake up the family's frail balance. First, Doreen makes friends with her neighbour, Mara (Lilith Julie Johna), a girl of her same age from a rich family, who incites her to play some nasty tricks and involves her in a theft at a convenience store. Second, Rainer is unexpectedly demoted by his boss Klose (Robert Stadlober) and forced to leave his post to Kleemann (a marvellously hateful Andreas Döhler), an unscrupulous supervisor ready to exploit his manpower day and night for the sake of maximising profits.

As the two conflicts escalate, we are helpless witnesses to the family's unavoidable collapse. Rainer and Doreen are pushed to their limits and keep on “biting the bullet,” while their two enemies find ways to make their lives impossible. The constant feeling of powerlessness is not too different from the one experienced when watching Ken Loach's drama Sorry We Missed You [+see also:
film review
trailer
Q&A: Ken Loach
film profile
]
; here, too, the head of a family must fight against his tyrannical employers and the spiral of small and big misfortunes hitting the characters seems unstoppable. The growing tension is also felt through the film's increasingly fast narrative pace, which in later stages becomes rushed and anguishing.

The cinematography, courtesy of Falko Lachmund (Sisters Apart [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
), ties in wonderfully with Meyer's poetic of social realism, and does not hesitate to show the ugliest and most depressing room corners, shabby interiors, Rainer's unkempt look, the rust and the dirt. The final showdown is timely, cruel and meaningful, as it offers a wider – and even more disillusioned – perspective on the role of victims and perpetrators as well as on the process of dehumanisation caused by labour exploitation and bullying. On the whole, the Braunschweig-born director does a great job in tackling these overused themes, choosing to place her trust on excellent leads and dry dialogues.

The Seed was produced by Baden-Baden-based Kurhaus Production, and co-produced by SWR and ARTE. The film’s international sales agent is yet to be confirmed.

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