Naked Animals (Nackte Tiere)
Aimless students try to put some structure in their lives as they approach the end of school in this meandering German drama. It may be the longest 83 minutes at this year’s Berlinale.
To avoid simply boiling Naked Animals down to little more than a wheel-spinning exercise in depicting the lives of anxious young adults, let’s expound on the characters. The film is driven by an ensemble of five, with Katja (Marie Tragousti) serving as the closest to a main character. She practises martial arts and leads a kids’ class with Sascha (Sammy Scheuritzel), her troubling significant other. Ju-jitsu is the externalised representation of her pain, for their relationship is rocky in both emotional and physical terms.
She’s better around the carefree Benni (Michelangelo Fortuzzi, the talented young actor from Germany’s adaptation of Skam) and her friends Laila (Luna Schaller) and Schöller (Paul Michael Stiehler). In between attending classes and completing homework, they’re found together smoking weed and discussing love. The portrait of depressed youth is reminiscent of Skins, Euphoria, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and many other films and TV shows we’ve seen before, albeit given a slighter treatment that lacks the emotional potency, or even the light humour, of the aforementioned examples.
Whilst the narrative content may be lacking in drama, where Naked Animals compels is in its 4:3 framing – the martial arts scenes are nicely captured – and the actors’ dedicated performances. The effectiveness of these micro-elements is generated under the direction of emerging filmmaker Melanie Waelde, who makes her feature debut after a decade of shorts. She’s a talented filmmaker with a strong visual sense and a knack for guiding actors, but Naked Animals feels like a story drawn from a lived experience that just doesn’t make for compelling cinema – at least not after the thousandth time seeing it.
Naked Animals (Nackte Tiere) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2020 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Naked Animals (Nackte Tiere) here: