A man named Johannes (Jacob Matschenz) and a woman named Undine (Paula Beer) are sitting in a cafe. He met someone else. After wiping a tear from his face, she tells him that he has no choice, he cannot leave her. If he refuses, she will have to kill him. This threat is surprisingly well taken – the first sign that things may not be exactly what they appear to be. She leaves to make a presentation on urban development in Berlin, especially after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which is approaching its 30e birthday, and tells Johannes that he will be there when she comes back. He is not.
As Ondine begins to panic, her eyes fall on an aquarium in the cafe just as a young man named Christoph (Franz Rogowski) enters the room. He has seen her presentation and wants to spend time with her. As his eyes focus on the silhouette of a scuba diver in the aquarium, Christoph’s awkwardness throws him into the shelf and the glass shatters, sending shards, water and fish at them. of them. You won’t see a cute stranger meet each other all year round. And yet, Beer and Rogowski’s chemistry is immediately palpable. While they are lying on the ground, they look into each other’s eyes and you think they are instantly connected. It’s a reminder of how increasingly rare on-screen chemistry is in modern movies, as these two have something that you don’t see that often anymore.
Of course, they start a romance. Did I mention that Christoph is a scuba diver? Petzold films fascinating underwater footage, starting with Christoph’s encounter with a legendary catfish named Gunther. And then Christoph takes Undine to work with him one day and things get even stranger. “Undine” is a difficult film to recap as it is deliberately light on the plot, choosing to play with themes and mood more than dialogue. A surprising part of the film consists of Ondine’s presentations on history and architecture as Petzold tries (and sometimes misses) commentary on how we can change things, replace one building with another, but he there are aspects of the human condition that remain the same. The legend of Ondine dates back hundreds of years, much like some of the buildings still standing in Berlin. We can change the architecture. We can tear down the wall. But history and mythology remain, just beneath the placid surface of the water. And you can replace one boyfriend with another, but it’s not always that easy.