Four Minutes

I can be soooo lazy at times, and prefer to go to the second-run movie theater around the corner (3 1/2 minutes leisurely walk) instead of fighting the crowds to see whatever is movie-of-the-week. And anyway, this theater owner has good taste in films.

I had never heard of "Vier Minuten" before, but it had won some sort of "Best German film in 2006" award - although with the state of German films, it doesn't take much to win an award like that. The plot outline on the IMDB was, um, meager: "An elderly piano teacher trains a young convict at a women's penitentiary." Full stop.

Okay. Just the thing for a rainy Saturday evening. I got there just as the ads were starting and was shocked to find that I was getting one of the last free seats, the place was jam-packed!

The movie started in fits and starts, it was hard trying to sort out who was whom, what time it was playing in (the present, but it is filmed in Luckau in Brandenburg, where time seems to have stood still), which bits were flashbacks, and which bits carried the story on.

An angry elderly woman, Trude, insists on teaching women convicts to play the piano. And one is really, really good, and really, really angry: Jenny. Turns out she played the child prodigy circuit before her life disintegrated. Her father started a "relationship" with her, as he put it, she ran away to live with a male prostitute, who got her pregnant and then killed his father, she got framed for the murder because her Dad would not give her an alibi and here she was, doing time with some, um, lovely ladies in the women's pen.

Anyway, Trude and Jenny get connected, practice a lot, and Trude gets Jenny to the German national youth musician's festival. She makes it to the finals, and then 2 days before the competition her cell mates tie her hands to the bed with her dress while she is sleeping and set it on fire, burning her. She pulls free in rage, grabs something, and smashes a cell mate to the floor. This gets her privilege of attending the finals rescinded.

But Trude manages to sneak her out of prison, they have a big fight ('cause Jenny's father had visited Trude) and Trude ends up telling Jenny her story, about being a lesbian nurse during the Third Reich and ratting out on her communist girlfriend, who was then executed. Somehow they manage to get themselves pulled together and make it to the contest.

They need to prove that Jenny is Jenny, and of course she does not have ID, having just escaped from prison. Trude finds a phone booth (something seldom these days!) and calls Jenny's father, who has an old ID for her, and he comes. She gets in just in time to play - and just as the police enter the opera house to re-arrest her. Cops all over the place, at every entrance, and the jail boss coming up to Trude, who is waiting backstage.

Trude insists that they wait four minutes, so that Jenny can perform, and man, what four minutes those are! Jenny plays Franz Schubert's Impromptu Op. 142 No. 2, but not like you have ever heard it, classical mixed with jazz mixed with beat box mixed with playing the piano strings directly. It is really amazing! The patrons are shocked at first, but then they give her a standing ovation, and she curtsies (something she had fought about with Trude many times), with two cops putting on handcuffs as she is bowing down.

I wanted to put this synopsis into the IMDB, as there is so little there. But they will only do that if I validate myself as a real person by either logging into Amazon or giving a credit card number or giving a (US) mobile phone for them to send me an SMS to send back. Nope. I have a login at IMDB to read the juicy stuff in the forums, but they're not getting real data from me. So here is a synopsis, you are welcome to come and get it!


WiseWoman said...

My American composer friend has seen the film and found it horrible: no positive male persons in it. I tried to note that most movies have no positive female persons in them, but he was not listening.

He railed about all the violence and lesbianism and Nazis - I began to wonder if we had seen the same movie. But the last four minutes were okay. From him, that es quite a compliment!

WiseWoman said...

We just saw the movie again on DVD with friends. I seemed to catch on so many tiny details this time, grimaces Trude makes to people, literary or historical allusions, exceedingly dry humor. And even thought I know how it will end: the last four minutes are wonderful!

We then watch the real pianist play the piece on the extra footage - I must say, kudos to the technicians and the editors, making it sound like being played in an opera house and editing much more power into the music.

Good enough for a second look.