Sea Saw

Tara Judah of the 2014 attended a screening and discussion of Maximilian Leo's MY BROTHER'S KEEPER.

Producer Jonas Katzenstein and director Maximilian Leo with Matthijs Wouter Knol at the screening of MY BROTHER'S KEEPER

Maximilian Leo and his production partner Jonas Katzenstein met at a festival five years ago and soon after began developing the script for MY BROTHER'S KEEPER. The first film screening at Berlinale Talents, it was met by a warm welcome from a room full of this year's crop.

Visually the film is striking, but its tonally unsettling. Deadpan dialogue and lengthy pauses that are so often the mark of black comedy are present, but the depravity of its central characters makes laughter an unnerving response.

Brothers Gregor (Sebastian Zimmler) and Pietschi (Robert Finster) share very little in common but meet up annually to go sailing. When Pietschi disappears Gregor's curiosity leads him to a sexually violent relationship with Jule (Nadja Bobyleva). Trying to fill a void, Gregor moves beyond his safety zone with dangerous results.

Interspersed throughout the film are abstracted memories of Pietschi; photographs and home video break up the aesthetic in a way that suggests memory is often a burden. The result is a trifle self-indulgent but it works well enough against Leo’s alternating seedy red wash and heavy blue colour palette.

Following the screening Leo and Katzenstein were enthusiastically welcomed to the stage. Proud to have their film presented at the Berlinale – one of sixty-two in this year’s programme to be made by past years’ Talents – the pair grinned as they answered questions about their rewarding journey from idea to big screen.

The questions were clearly from young filmmakers: “How long did it take from script to screen?“, “Where was it shot?“ and “How much did production come in at?“. Their “quick and fast” production moved from first draft to screen in just three years, was shot in Cologne and had a budget of 800,000 Euros.

But even an audience full of filmmakers want more than just technical information, especially when the story has a mystery at its core. When asked if Pietschi drowned at sea, Leo answered, “I've promised my writer that I don't answer this question. But what I can tell you [is] that she, and us, we know.” The first lesson for this year's Talents was to leave some things to the imagination.