Wintersleepers Review

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Mountain films were hugely popular in Germany in the 20s and 30s. Master of the peak picture, Dr. Arnold Fanck's tales of perilous climbs and daring rescues helped make a star out of Hitler's favourite filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl. Out of fashion in recent years, the genre is revived with this cool revision of its key themes of heroism and the awesome power of nature.

Leaving a bar after a heavy night's drinking, cinema projectionist Rene (Matthes) steals a car and accidentally overturns the horsebox being driven by a hard-up farmer. Beset by amnesia since his army days, Rene simply staggers away from the incident, which rings no bells when he begins dating Laura (Sellem), the nurse who is treating the farmer's comatose daughter. Nor does the mist lift when he meets Laura's housemate, Rebecca (Daniel), who is enduring a strained relationship with Marco (Ferch), a flashy ski instructor whose stolen car is buried in a snowdrift beside a winding mountain road.

With the exteriors bathed in a disconcerting ochre and the interiors bursting with rich colour, the opening segment of this intriguing film is quite mesmerising. But having set up the situation so slickly, Twyker takes an age to unravel the threads that bind his characters. There's undeniable tension in waiting for the various coincidences to come to light, but the tone becomes so melodramatic it's almost like watching Bollywood on ice.

As the characters are so much at the disposal of the plot, there's little room for depth, although Matthes conveys something of the frustration of a man reduced to taking photographs to prevent his life from becoming a blur. Although it's been adapted from Pyszora's novel, this is a highly cinematic drama. But its lack of pace and focus undermines its visual beauty.