The Forest for the Trees (review)

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German filmmaker Maren Ade quietly astonishes with her 2003 debut, a portrait of echoing loneliness and raw anger of a still female kind that is rarely seen in cinema. Green schoolteacher Melanie (Eva Löbau) is out on her own for the first time in her life, and it’s not going well: she cannot connect with her students, who mock and harass her, and her desperate attempts at friendship — with a fellow teacher, with a neighbor at her new apartment complex — are unsatisfying in more ways than one. Harsh video cinematography casts a prickly spell of alienation as Melanie slowly falls apart, heading for a haunting, distressing end that screams of an aching frustration with the disconnectedness of modern life. A festival favorite, the film claims among its many awards a Special Jury Prize at Sundance in 2005 and Best Picture and Best Actress, for Löbau, at at Newport International that same year. The disc also includes the short British film “Estes Avenue,” from director Paul Cotter. [buy at Amazon]

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