Lust for life can't be put down

December 9, 2008 

Though filmed in color, the streetscapes of "The Moon and Other Lovers," a movie by Bernd Bohlich, nevertheless evoke the former East Germany, where the story unfolds in a contemporary setting, as a sterile, dispirited world.

The people do what they must to survive. The concerts they attend indeed rock. At wedding receptions in roadside sports bars, they dance with sweaty abandon. They engage in sex pretty much at the drop of a hat, so long as there's a wink of invitation. Of course, if you're gay, please leave now. They work, they haggle and they scam.

No one, however, instinctively rebels against their culture's depressing nature as much as Hanna -- a durable, aging, earthy sprite whose lust for life and love in the context of difficult economic circumstances drives her about half mad. Hanna, played with sweetness, cunning, charm and the right amount of vulnerability by Katharina Thalbach, is an uneducated, middle-aged single parent whose life fails to gain traction.

We follow Hanna through a series of lovers, including a man she marries but does not love. Hanna has lots to put up with and does so with the resources available to her, which are sometimes but not always equal to the challenge. She holds tightly to her independence and suffers when she loses it. When it comes to pity vs. love, for Hannah there's no choice. Love is always what she wants.

You shouldn't get the idea that "The Moon and Other Lovers" is a heavy-handed, perhaps political, tear-jerker. It is sad and heart-wrenching, and often sharply funny and decidedly apolitical (though there are some delicious off-handed barbs from Hanna about living in what was, not too long ago, a highly regulated world).

In their earnest, sometimes pathetic attempts to fulfill their needs, the movie's characters, Hanna included, are bunglers and stumblers. Even the heels are likeable. The film ends on a positive note but, if we think about it, probably not so positive.

In any case, it feels right.


Peter Porco watches movies in Anchorage and blogs at adn.com/greenroom.

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