Monday, April 17, 2017

Review - The All-Around Reduced Personality aka Redupers (1978)

Helke Sander's first and best film, made in West Germany in 1977, is a harrowing yet heartening portrait of a woman colliding with the glass ceiling in slow-motion. The woman (played by Sander) is Edda Chiemnyjewski, a photographer and single mother juggling artistic ambitions with work and parental duties, and the ceiling is an actual physical barrier. The Berlin Wall, a looming presence established in a long tracking shot that opens the film, effectively embodies the impediments and partitions that Edda and her all-female photography collective must navigate. Their planned project, a series involving the wall and the citizens on either side, is repeatedly rejected for being too political, and not reflective of traditional "women's issues." The runaround continues, culminating at a particularly exasperating gallery reception, a gauntlet of condescension that leaves Edda sickened, figuratively and literally. Rather than give in to frustration, Sander seeks solace in the ritualistic pleasures of the photographer's craft, specifically the repetitive, strangely hypnotic processes of developing and printing. She also interjects alleviating humor, via a steady stream of wry, intelligent dialogue, and episodes that highlight the subtle absurdity of the workaday balancing act. Sander's films, as ingenious as they are, still have yet to receive the consideration they deserve. In her first go-around, she exhibits the saint-like equanimity required to continue creating in lieu of that consideration.