Incest is perverted. That makes it basically exciting, transgressive, absurd and ripe for cinematic treatment. In this case, the forbidden romance is fed by sibling lust. But perhaps the fun drains out if love is unrequited. Poetry has covered this aspect. A sister’s imagination takes hold as delirious encounters displace cold realities. In a confined space, debauched eroticism boils and spits; across Eurasian plains, it’s reduced to a weary simmer.
Lena (Zsofia Körös) wants her brother Noah (Francis Meier). Tragic desire enters stage left. He becomes cautiously aware of her advances, so escapes. She pursues him through technology, dreams and, eventually, plane tickets to Turkey. This is a teenage crush wrought complicated. Jealousy and envy blur truth and delusion. These uncertainties are rarely curious. Of course, we end up in Aphrodisias.
One moment and its consequences work well. Lena starts seeing Noah’s friend Enis (Nikola Šošic), encouraging him upstairs while her parents are away. There’s a stipulation: he must wear a particular T-shirt. Glances punctuate the amorous affair, these directed to the wall where a photo sticks: Noah topless, grinning. The next family dinner plays out joyously.
Thomas Imbach batters a good premise into tedious submission. Hallucinations barely register. Bland expressions undercut fraught emotion. In the third act’s frantic search, the film grows listless and repetitive. The brother-sister relationship is uninteresting past its sexual intrigue. This is the result of yearning: it dries you up, leaves you devitalised. Genetic attraction devours its young, and this is rendered unengaging enough to never feel ethically troubling.
Equal affection isn’t likely. Lena can’t grasp this. A mental fugue asserts itself. Who ultimately suffers more? A gushing amalgam of rocks and tears points to the stranded Noah, feeling the sharp end of Auden’s rueful acknowledgement, to let the more loving one be he. All the while, Lena disappears into stone. Softly she goes now, pad pad.
Glaubenberg does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Locarno Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Locarno Film Festival website here.