Friday, January 24, 2014

The Movie "Vier Minuten" (Four Minutes)


Language: German
Directed by: Chris Kraus
Production Year: 2006 (Germany)
Release Date:18 April 2008 (USA) 
Runtime:112 min
Also Known As:Vier Minuten
Filming Locations: Luckau, Brandenburg, Germany
Production Co: 
Kordes & Kordes Film GmbH, Südwestrundfunk (SWR), Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR)
Jenny von Loeben (Hannah Herzsprung) is young but her life is over. She has been locked up in a women's prison for killing someone, and she would do it again. Buried beneath her impenetrable facade, however, Jenny has an invaluable musical talent. When a 80-year-old piano teacher Traude Krueger (Monica Bleibtreu) discovers the girl's terrible secret, her raging brutality and her dreams, she makes it her mission to retransform Jenny into the musical wunderkind she once was.

In Germany, the elder Frau Traude Krueger gives piano classes in a prison for a few prisoners and the security guard Mütze (Sven Pippig). When she sees the rebel and aggressive Jenny Von Loeben playing piano, she immediately identifies her potential and offers to teach her for a competition. Frau Krueger finds that Jenny was a prodigy when she was a child; abused when she was a teenager and has been imprisoned for murdering and decapitating a man. Along the period they work together preparing for the exhibition, Frau Krueger discloses secrets about her love in World War II while the self-destructive Jenny has four minutes of glory and recognition of her talent.

When she tells her she can't take any lessons because her hands are too rough and she is uncooperative, Jenny becomes enraged and almost kills the prison guard, Mütze, also one of Krueger's students. Then she starts playing the piano. Krueger listens from the hallway and, impressed by her talent, later offers Jenny lessons, but requires absolute obedience, including eating a sheet of paper.

Jenny's adoptive father wanted to turn her into a Mozart-like child prodigy when she was young, but when she resisted going to further contests, he molested her. Krueger plans to have her compete again. While practicing, some inmates become jealous of Jenny, who doesn't seem to get punished for beating up the guard. Some of the prison personnel oppose giving her the freedom to play the piano. However, the prison director wants positive media attention for his prison.

Jenny reaches the finals of a piano competition “Jugendmusiziert” for players of 21 years old and under. Mütze transfers her to the cell of her rival inmates. They strap her hands to the bed with some cloth and set them on fire. Jenny severely wounds one of the culprits, and she is forbidden to enter the competition. Krueger learns that Mütze deliberately set up the conflict and she confronts him. Krueger resigns, and takes her piano. Mütze aids Jenny escaping from prison with the piano so she can play at the competition.

Jenny learns that Kruger has had contact with her adoptive father. Thinking he arranged all of it, and that Krueger was just being bribed into teaching her, she rages violently. Krueger tells her about her own past, how she lost her great love, another woman, during the second world war, because she was a communist, and how she also taught her to play the piano.

The FINALE of "Vier Minuten"

Krueger convinces Jenny to play at the competition where, because the police have come to take her back to jail, she has only four minutes to convince the crowd. She diverts from the original plan of playing a piece by Schumann, and plays a unique piece of her beloved "negro-music", including percussion, foot-stomping and reaching under the lid to pound the strings. When she is finished, the crowd erupts in a standing ovation.

"Vier Minuten" is another powerful and engaging German movie. With a great affinity for the characters, this movie portrays the encounter of two very different women, tells of rebellion and surrender, pain and the longing for truth – and of the immense power of music, which while it might not be able to bring reconciliation, still bears the essence of freedom.

This film, being German, inherits the - "duzen" and "Siezen" - of the German language and social custom. Translating it into English is problematic.

The non-linear beginning is quite confused, but provocative and intriguing; however, after ten minutes, the story becomes intelligible with the development of the characters, supported by magnificent performances and wonderful cinematography.

The story is deep and touching, and viewers that enjoy superficial Hollywoodian fairy tales may not like this dense drama developed in low-pace. Monica Bleibtreu and the lovely Hannah Herzsprung have top-notch performances that deserved nomination to the Oscar. The conclusion is thrilling and heartbreaking, and will probably make the eyes of sensitive viewers wet.

Gertrud 'Traude' Krüger
“The words 'sorry', 'please' and 'thank you' are missing in your letter.”
Jenny von Loeben:  
“Sorry. Please. Thank you.”

Gertrud 'Traude' Krüger:  
“Strange how hard it is for both of us.”
Jenny von Loeben:  
Gertrud 'Traude' Krüger:  
“ be friendly.”

The movie was shot by the renowned cinematographer Judith Kaufmann, and the brilliant music - which has to live up to the power of Schumann, Beethoven and Mozart in this movie - was composed by Annette Focks, one of the great hopes of young German cinema. 

Summer 2005. We travelled from Berlin to our shooting location: A prison building dating from the middle ages, situated at the centre of the isolated little town of Luckau in a market place lined with renaissance houses. It was pouring with rain that day, pelting down. It was three weeks before shooting was due to begin and we wanted to make a film about music but we didn’t have any music. For a whole year, we had been trying to find a composer who could take on Schumann, Mozart and Beethoven, but without success. The project was in danger of collapse because it was clear that without the final concert, from which the film gets its name FOUR MINUTES and which was supposed to tie all the threads of the plot together, our film couldn’t succeed.

We sped through the rain. A truck honked its horn at us. Our desperation led us to pay little attention to speed limits of any kind. In front of me in the car lay dozens of demo tapes. We had begged almost every film composer in Germany to send us an idea, a first draft. Many of these were interesting, brilliant and impressive compositions, but something was missing, that wild and off the rails quality, the majestic and brutal, the touching and inextinguishable music that would bring our main character Jenny to the one, monstrous climax, which a showdown always is.

I grabbed one of the last cassettes. Two A4 pages were enclosed with it. A commentary from the composer, who I’d never heard of before. She explained every single note that I was about to hear. I hate explanations. I hate rain. And I really hate it when hopes are replaced by fears. So the conditions were perfect. I put the cassette in and we listened for four minutes. Then we stopped the car and I jumped out, took shelter under a tree and called the composer. Annette Focks. I yelled down the phone to her how great she was, that I wanted to take her piece exactly as it was, that she was going to save our film and our asses too. And that’s exactly what she did, she found a balance between Schubert’s impromptus and her own sometimes raw, sometimes tender tones, and gave this film its heartbeat.

FOUR MINUTES’ soundtrack is a mosaic, compiled from centuries of tradition. Klezmer, Bach, bar music, handcuff rock, North-African sounds, Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata, heavy metal. But the music that most clearly expresses what FOUR MINUTES is about, the deep wish for individuality and freedom of expression, is the music that hit us on that rainy day near Luckau.

For adult only. Not recommended and not suitable for children. The film is very dark and its main themes include violence (physical and psychological) and abuse.
Read more >> HERE

By now, “Four Minutes” has won 40 international awards and drawn more than 500,000 moviegoers into the cinemas in Germany alone. The film received its most significant honours at the German Film Awards in May 2007: it won the Golden Lola for Best Picture. Furthermore, the award for Best Lead Performance was given to Monica Bleibtreu. At this year’s Bavarian Film Awards, production company Kordes & Kordes Film GmbH received the prestigious VGF Young Producers Award.

During the course of this year’s 58th Berlin Film Festival, the Kordes & Kordes-produced feature FOUR MINUTES garnered another three international awards this Saturday and has now passed the total mark of 40 film prizes.

Director Chris Kraus accepted awards for "Best Feature Film" and "Best Actress" (Monica Bleibtreu) from the "6th International Images Film Festival" Harare in Zimbabwe, presented to him by Dr Jürgen Maier, Commercial Director of the Goethe Institute.