In 'Jerichow,' lives tumbling down

Posted: August 07, 2009

A taut, German-made thriller, Jerichow adds a bit of European xenophobia to the pulp traditions of passion and betrayal. Smartly done by Christian Petzold, this James M. Cain-style noir serves up a classic triangle: an alluring, unhappy wife (Nina Hoss), a piggish husband (Hilmi Sözer), and the handsome loner (Benno Fürmann) who can't help himself - and does.

Set in the farm country of eastern Germany, and shot so that a wide blue sky arcs over the characters, emphasizing their insignificance, Jerichow (the title is the name of a town) introduces the loner first: Fürmann's Thomas is a terse, steely guy, dishonorably discharged from the army. (We never learn why.) His mother has just died, leaving him a ramshackle house but no money. Thomas is broke.

Enter Ali Özkan (Sözer), a Turkish emigre who owns a chain of roadside snack shops. Thomas helps Ali out of a jam. Ali offers him a job.

And then Thomas meets Ali's wife, the blond, blue-eyed Laura. Hoss plays her with a brittle sadness, and it doesn't take long before the wife and the boss' new driver are all over each other. The clinches - in hallways, in loading docks, in the woods behind the house - are almost comic in their abandon.

Although Ali's business is thriving, he's full of suspicion: of his employees, who he believes are stealing, and of his wife, who he thinks is cheating on him. He's also keenly aware that he'll always be an outsider - a Turk in Germany, no matter how well he speaks the language.

A movie about desperate souls doing desperate things, Jerichow delivers a final, wrenching twist that's as ironic as it is tragic.


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/

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