Curiously, the rough sleeping, homeless men who appear in this documentary from co-directors Johanna Sunder-Plassmann and Tama Tobias-Macht are not assigned names during the film. Their names (or at least the names they’ve chosen to give) are listed at the end of Outside, without context. This could come across as patronising in the extreme, but it is infinitely more likely to allude to the fact that to the hundreds, if not thousands of people who, every day, walk past these men – and people very much like them –, they are nameless. While this is simplistic, it’s also true.
The feature is essentially a series of pieces to camera from four homeless men in Germany. One of them refers to himself as a rough sleeper. One of them refers to himself (and others in a comparable situation) as trash. Another touchingly talks about how important it is for him to keep his particular section of an underpass as clean and tidy as possible, at all times. While their candour is undeniably interesting, it’s not fresh. These are boards that have been very well -trodden.
It’s impossible not to feel for the men on display, even when these feelings are conflicted, such as when one of them remarks that he is glad he’s still able to feel shame. Another man – who sleeps in the forest – offers a contrast to the urban rough sleepers, yet his motivations for doing so are not made clear. Perhaps he simply isn’t clear himself, and perhaps the concept of motivation doesn’t even apply.
Co-directors Sunder-Plassmann and Tobias-Macht clearly have a sense of the cinematic, which they deploy in various interludes. The men’s meagre possessions are depicted as floating in the air with the use of visual effects; sometimes along with the men themselves. Though aesthetically pleasing, these sequences add an impression of artifice, of being posed, which detracts from the sense of reality. Ignoring these unnecessary segments, Outside gives its subjects a dignified, if familiar platform.
Draußen (Outside) 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.