TALEA

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by Katharina Mückstein

grade: 8

It is bodies dancing lightly and finally free, as well as close-ups of suffering faces or teenage girls attending a swimming lesson that characterise Talea. And Katharina Mückstein’s camera knows perfectly well how to characterise them, making them, on screen, incredibly alive and pulsating.

Fear of swimming

Jasmin is fourteen years old, but is actually more mature than her age. She is afraid of swimming. Her mother has never had the chance to teach her. It is not easy for her to conform to her peers, nor to dress and behave like them. Forced to live a life that does not belong to her – in a foster family – the young girl wants nothing more than to get back in touch with her mother, who has yet to finish a prison sentence. The sweet, tender and sensitive Jasmin, then, is the protagonist of Talea, the debut feature by director Katharina Mückstein, already presented at the Diagonale 2013 and included in the programme Diagonale 2020 – The Unfinished.

Katharina Mückstein is known to have a predilection for coming-of-age films. And she can be said to be absolutely skilled in this film genre. If, in fact, the author was able, in 2018, to make herself known to an even wider audience by presenting L’Animale, her second feature film as director, which premiered at the Berlinale 2018, she had already shown with Talea a great sensitivity in capturing every subtlest nuance of the personality of her characters and, specifically, of her protagonists, each of whom is in the midst of an adolescent crisis, each of whom is at a particularly complicated stage of her growth, each of whom is played by an extraordinary Sophie Stockinger, the Viennese director’s favourite actress.

In Talea, then, we mainly see a girl who is afraid of swimming. A girl who, having run away from home in order to spend a weekend with her mother (for only a few days off), will finally have the opportunity to confront her. And, from such an encounter not devoid of tension and unexpected situations, they will certainly both mature.

Particularly interesting in this respect is the parallelism between mother and daughter. Eva (a versatile Nina Proll), Jasmin’s mother, behaves herself, at times, as a daughter. And she feels frightened and inadequate for the role of mother. Jasmin, for her part, asks for nothing but Eva’s love and, in her present and protective way, tries to reassure her that she would be a good mother.

Another protagonist of the film: an immense expanse of green, where the two go to spend the weekend. This particular location, isolated (or almost) from everything and everyone, becomes the keeper of their secrets and helps to create the necessary intimacy so that the relationship between the two can finally strengthen and develop.

Interestingly, there are always constants in Katharina Mückstein’s cinema. And not only with regard to the film genre, but also with regard to small, (not too) marginal details. This concerns first and foremost the music score. If, in fact, in Talea we can hear, during a party, the song Statte zitta by Alessandro Mannarino, L’Animale even takes its title from the song of the same name by Franco Battiato. A predilection for Italian music, a series of carefully chosen accompanying songs even contribute to the further development of the screenplay.

It is, then, bodies dancing lightly and finally free, as well as close-ups of suffering faces or teenage girls attending a swimming lesson that characterise Talea. And Katharina Mückstein’s camera knows perfectly well how to characterise them, making them, on screen, incredibly alive and pulsating. There is always time to learn to swim. What is important, however, is how one finally learns to do it.

Original title: Talea
Directed by: Katharina Mückstein
Country/year: Austria / 2013
Running time: 72’
Genere: drama, coming-of-age
Cast: Sophie Stockinger, Nina Proll, Philipp Hochmair, Andreas Patton, Eva-Maria Gintsberg, Rita Waszilovics, Lili Epply, Megan Werther, Alina Schaller
Screenplay: Selina Gnos, Katharina Mückstein
Cinematography: Michael Schindegger
Produced by: La Banda Film

Info: the page of Talea on iMDb