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by Hans Broich

grade: 7.5

Menuett is a never predictable or banal feature film, which leaves the viewer maximum freedom of interpretation. And in dealing with themes that are always topical, it immediately takes on universal connotations, while at the same time standing out for its singular and extremely elegant mise-en-scène. At the Diagonale’23.

Three stories, the same story

In both film and literature, love triangles, due to their many facets and all their possible implications, have always fascinated numerous readers or viewers. Yet it would be reductive to classify a feature film like Menuett (directed by young Hans Broich and presented as part of the programme of the Diagonale’23) as the story of a ‘simple’ love triangle. Yes, because, in fact, this little and sophisticated feature film – based on the novel of the same name by Louis Paul Boon – is, in reality, much more. And through its singular staging, here studied down to the smallest detail, it proves to be much more complex and layered than it might initially seem.

The staged story is set in contemporary Berlin. A couple lives in a large flat. Living with them is a young maid, who silently observes the development of their relationship every day. The man works eight hours a day in a cold room. One might even think that, because of his work, his feelings are gradually ‘freezing’. His wife, a very religious woman with a seemingly superficial and playful character, is about to become a mother and, in the meantime, remembers how her relationship with her husband began and how it changed over the years. At the same time, the maid is increasingly acting as a sort of postmodern ‘Lolita’, threatening to break the already precarious pre-established balances.

Menuett, therefore, tells us not just one, but three stories. Or, rather, the same story through three different perspectives. The words and thoughts of the protagonists follow one after the other, while the images, at the same time, show us the same intent in their daily activities. And so, this interesting Menuett unfolds on two different levels, drawing an exhaustive portrait of the world we live in, of how it has become, of the complex interpersonal relationships and how they risk becoming damaged by a constant, dangerous incommunicability.

Hans Broich’s camera moves agilely through the rooms of the flat. The man’s wife is intent on preparing clothes for the imminent birth of her child. Will the birth of the child ever help the couple regain a certain harmony, or does this event only serve to ‘fill’ an empty everyday life? As we listen each time to the off-screen voice of one of the protagonists, the voices of the other two characters mingle in the background, creating a chaotic buzz that fully renders the idea of a world in which we no longer listen to one another, in which we are increasingly individualistic, in which we are no longer willing to identify with those close to us. Menuett stages all this in a never predictable or banal way, leaving the viewer with maximum freedom of interpretation. And in dealing with themes that are always topical, it immediately takes on universal connotations, while standing out for its singular and extremely refined mise-en-scène. A mise-en-scene that reveals Hans Broich’s extraordinary talent and that finds its proper fulfilment in the form of a layered stream of consciousness.

Original title: Menuett
Directed by: Hans Broich
Country/year: Austria, Germany / 2023
Running time: 71’
Genre: drama
Cast: Charlotte Brandhorst, Josefin Fischer, Maximilian Brauer
Screenplay: Hans Broich
Cinematography: Sarah May Handler
Produced by: Superzoom Film

Info: the page of Menuett on the website of the Diagonale; the page of Menuett on iMDb; the page of Menuett on the website of the Filmakademie Wien