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RIMINI

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by Ulrich Seidl

grade: 8

With Rimini, Ulrich Seidl once again gives us a merciless portrait of the world in which we live, in which no one is given a chance to save themselves, in which there is no hope for a better future, in which old songs from World War II still echo through the corridors of a shabby retirement home and act as a sad leitmotif in our lives. At the Berlinale 2022.

Remembering a glorious past

Rimini, the newest feature film by renowned director Ulrich Seidl, has been particularly long-awaited. Shot partly in Lower Austria, partly in Italy (in Rimini, in fact), this recent work of his has finally been presented in competition at the Berlinale 2022 and has already caused a sensation after its first theatrical screening.

The story staged, then, is that of singer Richie Bravo (played by Michael Thomas), who has lived in Rimini for years, but has to temporarily return to his home town following the death of his mother. His father (played by Hans-Michael Rehberg, here in his last film appearance before his death in 2017), meanwhile, is in a retirement home and suffers from dementia. Richie’s past, therefore, will also influence his present once he returns to Rimini.

Richie Bravo is fundamentally a lonely man. The blow-ups in his villa reveal a glorious past, in which the man was a successful singer. The present, however, is quite different for him. Forced, from time to time, to rent out his villa to tourists and to prostitute himself to old ladies, Richie finds himself in obvious financial difficulties. The concerts at which he performs are only attended by few elderly spectators. Throughout his life, the man has never even been able to pay alimony for his daughter Tessa (Tessa Göttlicher). But what would happen if the latter were to suddenly ask him for all the money owed to her?

Rimini, then, is a film in which pictures speak for themselves. The objects in the basement of Richie’s father – which remind us so much of the environments in the documentary In the Basement (2014) – reveal a never-dead past. A past that is always ready to make itself felt more alive than ever, now through a song sung in the empty corridors of a retirement home, now through cynical and pitiless gazes, eager only for their own benefit.

Richie Bravo is not exactly an “innocent” man. On the contrary, through his love declarations and songs he proclaims feelings that have long since died. Yet, at the same time, he is a victim of what it has been and Ulrich Seidl observes him without judging him, but with a certain compassion. What the director is actually attacking is something rooted in the past, something that seems never to want to die, something that is handed down from generation to generation and that, in the case of Rimini, manifests itself in a ‘postmodern’ way in the figure of the protagonist’s daughter.

Rimini is a film made up of unsaid things, a film in which honesty is something unknown to the protagonists, even when they are not motivated by bad intentions. Even when – as in the case of our Richie Bravo – their only purpose is to survive or atone for certain faults of the past. No one can really see what is in front of their eyes, almost as if there were walls separating one person from another. A cold, wintry Rimini, where due to the thick fog it is difficult to see the way ahead, speaks for itself. Seidl, for his part, has no pity for certain realities and with his camera brings to life paradoxical situations thanks also to that black humour that has always distinguished his works. And so, once again, he gives us a merciless portrait of the world in which we live, in which no one is given a chance to save themselves, in which there is no hope for a better future, in which old songs from World War II still echo through the corridors of a squalid retirement home and act as a sad leitmotif in our lives.

Original title: Rimini
Directed by: Ulrich Seidl
Country/year: Austria, France, Germany / 2022
Running time: 114’
Genre: drama
Cast: Michael Thomas, Hans-Michael Rehberg, Tessa Göttlicher, Inge Maux, Claudia Martini, Georg Friedrich
Screenplay: Ulrich Seidl, Veronika Franz
Cinematography: Wolfgang Thaler
Produced by: Ulrich Seidl Filmproduktion, Parisienne de Production, Essential Films

Info: the page of Rimini on the website of the Berlinale; the page of Rimini on the website of the Austrian Film Commission; the page of Rimini on iMDb