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The first thing you notice is the resemblance. Marie Bäumer, playing the actor Romy Schneider as “an unhappy 42-year-old” with a drink problem, doesn’t just look uncannily like the Austrian-born movie star. She inhabits her in a way that makes you blink it into focus, a perception flipping back and forth like an optical illusion. It’s almost distracting, like the goosebump shiver of a voice from beyond the grave. So it takes longer than perhaps it should to acknowledge the quality of the rest of this handsome, scrupulously well-crafted drama.
The year is 1981 and Schneider has checked into an exclusive health spa in the Breton seaside resort of Quiberon. Her intention is to kick alcohol, not for her career, but for the 14-year-old son who is threatening to cut ties and live with his stepfamily. The exhaustion of a lifetime of being Romy Schneider – hounded by the German press and dogged by scandal – has taken its toll. She’s hollowed out, vulnerable and unable to sleep. Even so, she has agreed to an interview and photo shoot with the German magazine Stern. It would prove to be her last.
Emily Atef’s film imagines the events of the three days in which Schneider pinballs erratically between joy and despair, exudes movie-star magnetism and deadbeat desperation. Orbiting her is the photographer Robert Lebeck (Charly Hübner), an old friend and former lover; Michael Jürgs (Robert Gwisdek), a writer with unforgiving, bullet-hole eyes; and her watchful childhood friend Hilde (Birgit Minichmayr), the self-appointed buffer between the press and the actress’s own worst instincts.
The film is shot in the kind of black and white that emphasises both beauty and desolation – a homage to the iconic photographs captured by Lebeck. And the camera brilliantly mirrors Schneider’s mercurial moods. In a scene in which Schneider orchestrates a breakout and finds a bar, the tipsily gregarious lens reels around the room. The following morning, the camera and its subject sink, leaden with remorse. For Schneider, happiness is as ephemeral and insubstantial as a champagne bubble.
Source: The Guardian
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