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LOCARNO 2021 Cineasti del Presente

Review: No One’s With the Calves


- This second feature film by German-Iranian director Sabrina Sarabi explodes the romantic (and decidedly urban) myth of life in the countryside

Review: No One’s With the Calves
Saskia Rosendahl in No One’s With the Calves

Presented in competition within the Cineasti del Presente section of the Locarno Film Festival, No One’s With the Calves [+see also:
interview: Sabrina Sarabi
film profile
by Sabrina Sarabi turns its gaze towards a forgotten way of life experienced by all those youngsters who must build a life for themselves far away from the clamour of the city, in a place which, to all intents and purposes, appears all dried up. Acting as our guide within this parallel reality is twenty-four-year-old Christine, played by the magnetic Saskia Rosendahl whose sad and malicious air is occasionally reminiscent of the iconic Romy Schneider.

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Based upon the controversial novel of the same name by German author Alina Herbing, No One’s With the Calves unfolds in Schattin, a small rural village in northern Germany where Christine lives with her boyfriend Jan. The pair live alongside the latter’s parents on the family farm. What stands out from the very beginning is the ambivalence felt by Christine who dreams of leaving this futureless land which seem to be stuck in time, but who nonetheless remains tied to Jan and the only life she truly knows.

Light years away from the romanticism which many associate with countryside living, and with incredible plausibility and richness of detail, the film depicts the day-to-day existence of these individuals who feel trapped in a void. The buzzing of flies and the incessant mooing of the cows, which are part and parcel of life on a farm, and the days which follow endlessly on from one another, each identical to the last and spent between manual labour and cherry-flavoured alcoholic binges, are a key feature in Christine’s life, and compulsively changing her clothes is the only way she can find to escape the daily life which is slowly consuming her.

What No One’s With the Calves describes is a world where everything is stuck in a rut on account of traditional gender roles: whether the need to seduce in order to feel alive, despite the lack of respect received in return, or the exasperation that comes with a sad and toxic form of virility which boys believe will make up for their exclusion from the “powerful” men’s club. Representative of an idealised life which is as disorienting as the frenzy of the city, Christine’s skimpy, mega-tight, Lolitaesque clothes are the only weapons she has to help her evade her prison. It’s by way of seduction, the only resource which she believes to be truly available to her, that the film’s protagonist tries to escape. Ready to do anything, deluded, disillusioned and surprisingly helpless because lacking in the common sense needed to impose herself as a person, Christine clings onto the men whom she believes to be capable of taking her away from there, especially Klaus, a wind turbine engineer from Hamburg whose intentions are dubious to say the least.

With an ultra-realistic and precise eye, Sabina Sarabi scrutinises a dormant world which is nonetheless bubbling away from the inside, inhabited by those who have been forgotten by progress but who nonetheless dream of consumerism; youngsters in rebellion against a world which no longer has anything to offer them, if not for a bottle of low-cost alcohol. Without resorting to sensationalism, No One’s With the Calves affects us for the cruel banality of the everyday life it depicts.

No One’s With the Calves is produced by Weydemann Bros. (Germany) in co-production with WDR and Arte.

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(Translated from Italian)

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