The Ground Beneath My Feet
Still convincing people that she is the next best thing to come out of Austria since apfelstrudel, Valerie Pachner once again undertakes a role that poses her a challenge like none she has tackled before, in Marie Kreutzer’s The Ground Beneath My Feet. The star of Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life returns to screens in Kreutzer’s fourth feature film as Lola, a driven businesswoman who wishes to climb high and fast in her industry, yet finds herself held back by the complications of her personal life. Keeping her relationship with her boss a secret is one problem, but acting as the responsible guardian of her mentally ill sister Conny (Pia Hierzegger) proves a harder situation to manage. When Conny tries to commit suicide, Lola finds the structure of her life derailed as her attention is pulled back and forth between work and family, her own grip on reality chipping away with each passing day.
Pachner’s performance is a tour de force, but that’s no surprise. She is as restless as the film itself, her character’s yearning for career success and exercise clashing painfully with her sister’s distressing mental health struggles. Receiving ghost phone calls can be unsettling to the strongest of minds, but as Lola’s vulnerability and ruthless determination begin bleeding into one another, there is an insatiable insecurity that races through both her and the viewer, with no comforting knowledge of where her path may be leading. We, the onlooker, almost fear the climax – a devilish tool and accomplishment.
What’s more, the film leaves us thinking about what the “ground beneath her feet” actually is. Of course, the title can easily be interpreted as a metaphorical description of how one woman finds the world around her collapse as she begins to question her own sanity and sees the ones she loves most drift away from her mere presence. Not only is Lola on the run from her own mortality, but those around her appear to be treating her the same way.
However, there is more to this than originally meets the eye. Much to the credit of Kreutzer, who also wrote the screenplay, social inequalities run rife through the film, from economic difference to gender stereotypes in the workplace. It becomes clearly understandable that no matter how comfortable women may appear on the outside, much of the world continues to knock you down purely because of your sex. Fraying around the edges can happen in all shapes and sizes. For Lola, this reality comes in the form of her own state of mind, but it must be noted that this is not the case for everyone and the world needs to open its eyes to its surroundings to help.
It is never confirmed whether or not Lola is actually experiencing a state of mental illness or not – a bugbear, it has to be said – but the message within the film is stronger than this, symbolic in more ways than one rather than carrying one giant flag with a message. For this, The Ground Beneath My Feet is a modern film, with very current representations of life, demanding respect through its honesty and attention through its raw depiction.
The Ground Beneath My Feet is released digitally on demand on 15th June 2020.
Watch the trailer for The Ground Beneath My Feet here: