In Austria, the final exam as a secondary school student is aptly titled “Matura”. It implies there’s more here than a mere transition from high school to further education; rather it highlights the tremendous pressure imposed on teenagers to figure out their life when they haven’t begun living it yet.
L’ Animale uses this term as a diving board into themes of becoming an adult and choosing the right life path. We follow young Muti as she dons her graduation gown with aspirations of becoming a veterinary doctor, but is she ready to leave her small town for Vienna? She spends most of her time with a gang of motocross-loving boys but her friendship with them becomes complicated by romantic feelings she is not nearly ready for.
In her second feature film, director Katharina Mueckstein captures the growing pains of forming one’s identity with aplomb and wit as Muti learns life’s hard lessons. When one of her female friends is groped at a disco by one of her motor-derby male friends, Muti spits in the victim’s face, confused and misguided.
The protagonist is joined by an affable cast of characters who are also a little stuck-in-a-rut and trying to figure out what they want out of life. Her parents have run out of things to say to each other and are resigned to a life of complacency, demonstrating that this pressure to find direction is not only reserved for kids.
L’ Animale doesn’t exactly break new ground in the coming-of-age genre but creates complicated yet warm characters and develops them well. The story of a young woman learning how to break out instead of fit in will definitely resonate with a teenage audience going through the same experience.
The synth-heavy soundtrack and brisk pacing keep the narrative moving without dwelling too long on melancholy, and there are tender moments of catharsis that signal a potential light at the end of the tunnel.
L’ Animale does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival 2018.
Watch the trailer for L’ Animale here: