Above Us Only Sky

87 minutes

What happens when you decide to film a story while leaving a large number of blanks to be filled, unafraid to lead into dead-ends or false leads? German director Jan Schomburg does just that in Above Us Only Sky, greatly helped by the wondrously fine-tuned performance of Sandra Hüller as Martha Sabel, a Cologne schoolteacher whose storybook life with doctoral student Paul (Felix Knopp) is shattered on the eve of moving to Marseille, at the end of the film's first act. To explain why would mean giving up the first of the story's twists, where Schomburg introduces a mildly disquieting thriller element only to infuriatingly background it soon afterwards until it all but disappears.
     That is probably the one qualm that may disappoint viewers expecting from Above Us Only Sky what it clearly doesn't want to be: under its crisp veneer of solid, unremarkable mainstream filmmaking, this is a film that stubbornly refuses to accomodate those expectations and prefers to follow its story through a series of angular twists and turns. The real subject of the film is the depth and limit of one's love and feelings; how far will you go to hold on to them, can you ever be over them? Schomburg's film is, granted, essentially a writer's conceit, visible in the way he throws into disarray the classic three-act strategy (by introducing what seems a new lead character precisely at the film's halfway point, midway through act two), but one that he directs and materializes more than adequately.

Starring Sandra Hüller, Georg Friedrich, Felix Knopp, Kathrin Wehlisch, Aljoscha Stadelmann, Valery Tscheplanowa, Stephan Grossmann.
     Directed and written by Jan Schomburg; produced by Claudia Steffen, Christoph Friedel; music by Tobias Wagner, Steven Schwalbe; director of photography (colour, Cinepostproduction processing), Marc Comes; production designers, Cordula Jedamski, Cora Pratz; costume designer, Frauke Firl; film editor, Bernd Euscher.
     A Pandora Film Produktion presentation/production, in co-production with Westdeutscher Rundfunk; supported by Filmstiftung Nordhrein-Westfalen. (World sales, Bavaria Film International.)
     Screened: IndieLisboa 2011 official competition advance DVD screener, Lisbon, May 5th 2011.


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