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The turmoil within

OUT NOW! NORDSTRAND looks intimately at domestic violence between father and sons in an extraordinary way.

Nordstrand is out in Berlin cinemas on January 23.

Set amidst the beautiful but resolutely passive wilderness on the Frisian island of Nordeney, part II of Eichinger’s trilogy on domestic abuse brings together two brothers, long apart, to wrestle with the long-term consequences of a traumatic childhood in the house where Marten (Martin Schleiss) watched while his younger brother Volker (Daniel Michel) suffered violence at the hands of their father.  

Curly-headed and well-intentioned but plagued by guilt for not having intervened on his brother’s behalf, Marten wants to bring about a reconciliation with Volker in time for the release from prison of their mother, incarcerated for a crime relating to the death of their father during the boys’ adolescence. Outwardly stolid and unemotional, Volker is interested chiefly in the possibility of selling the jointly-owned house to relieve a temporary cash-flow problem.

Eichinger carefully invokes the natural environment to comment on the central dilemma. The tempest of wind and unruly seas reflect Volker’s unacknowledged turmoil just as perceptively as periods of temporary calm in which the brothers chat and hang out on the beach or replace shingles on the roof, suggesting, quite rightly, that normality and routines are just as much a part of domestic abuse as dark secrets behind closed doors.

The situation is ably reinforced by the cinematography: naturalist, hand-held camera work, abruptly edited to show inner lives (of places and people) disrupted by violence, whilst longer close-ups of both men’s faces imply a desire for familial cohesion inevitably frustrated by their past. Eichinger frames the central conflict with the involvement of two local women – Volker’s former girlfriend and an older family friend – adding both distance and intimacy. Is this how things looked and felt to outsiders? Is this how we would react in a similar situation?

Non-judgmental in tone and approach, Eichinger’s portrait of sins visited by fathers on sons unto the nth generation works with quiet undercurrents of desperation and grace to show that manipulative violence, once experienced, is perpetual in consequence. Nordstrand has screened to acclaim in Moscow, Montreal, Zurich and Chicago. Its German release promises further prizes.

Nordstrand | Directed by Florian Eichinger (Germany 2013) with Lennart Bartels, Luise Berndt, William Boer. Starts January 23