Film Review: Not A Word

FIFTY+SA Arts Reviewer, Dave Bradley, reviews Not A Word screening as part of this year’s HSBC German Film Festival at Palace Nova.

The latest from writer/director Hanna Antonina Wojcik Slak is a study of a fractured mother/child relationship that almost, at times, veers into horror territory, but keeps on being pulled back from the brink by Maren Eggert’s beautiful performance.

A German/Slovenian/French co-production in French, German and a bit of English, and all by a Polish filmmaker, this perhaps overdoes it a little with the stark landscapes and scary weather, and yet it really needs that kind of atmosphere to tell this story.

Divorced Nina (Eggert) is an orchestra conductor preparing for a career-defining rendition of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, but awfully close to the date of the performance she instead finds herself dealing with her teenage son Lars (Jona Levin Nicolai), who “fell” out of a window at school. Lars is so angry and withdrawn that Nina doesn’t know what to do with or say to him, and when he suggests that they go for a short getaway to an island that has a lot of memories for the family, they travel there as Nina’s mobile phone rings non-stop.

There are subplots here about a shopkeeper and her daughter on the island, but it’s secondary to what goes on between Nina and Lars, and how his rage affects everything. Scenes where the two of them walk around clifftops and precarious pathways are naturally tense, and much grim drama is added by the use of Mahler on the soundtrack, especially when Nina seems to hear the music in her head, and conducts an imaginary orchestra as the sea thunders beneath her.

The most problematic aspect to this tale, however, is the way that Nina is shown, at times, to be something of a bad Mum simply because she has to, you know, WORK.

But, well, not a word about that now!

Not A Word is screening as part of this year’s HSBC German Film Festival


We would like to acknowledge the Kaurna people as the custodians of the lands and waters of the Adelaide region.

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