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Undine “If you leave me, I’ll have to kill you,” Undine tells Johannes (Jacob Matschenz), who has beckoned her to their Undine usual café, across the street from the Berlin City Museum, where she works as a historian. This is the part in water sprite folklore when things typically turn dark. To our eyes, Undine looks human (Beer is big-eyed and lovely, and she plays the scene with surprising subtlety, considering that an operatic reaction would have been reasonable for one whose lover has doomed them both). Though the film doesn’t explain it explicitly, Undine was a water sprite by origin, and as such, she was only able to achieve her present form by falling in love with a man — one who must remain faithful to her or else forfeit his life.

By beginning at this point, Petzold has skipped over the sexy part of the story, at least as it is usually relayed in literature and the arts — and, on very rare occasion, in film (as in Neil Jordan’s Irish “Ondine”). Like Hans-Christian Andersen’s little mermaid, undines long to live among humans, and true love makes that possible. Now, the question becomes: Is Petzold’s heroine obliged to fulfill her destiny? (Must she kill Johannes?) Or is there something she can do to alter it?

Duration: 91 min


IMDb: 6.4