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Never underestimate the fertile possibilities of a good bedtime story. Germany’s master contemporary filmmaker Christian Petzold’s newest film Undine is a very adult variation of the original mermaid myth – which involves a lot more bloodlust and mysticism than the Disneyfied versions.

This fantasy fable unfolds in a very realistic-seeming Berlin, where the beautiful mermaid Undine has been given human form by the love of a man, Johannes – who turns out to be treacherously unfaithful. Undine is working as a tour guide in a museum that specializes in the study of Berlin’s urban history when Johannes abruptly shows up to announce that he is leaving her. Fate deals another swift turn to the stunned Undine when she is almost immediately dropped her into the arms of another man, Christoph, an underwater diver. Christoph is a breath of fresh air for Undine - his gentle, loving nature is in sharp contrast to Johannes’ wily duplicity, and his love for being underwater makes Undine’s attraction to him that much stronger.

The past always catches up with us and we always are who we are. Tragedy eventually strikes Christoph and Undine's "Camelot" and each lover will in turn experience something similar to the "phantom pain of an amputated limb", as Undine says in an observation during one of her historical lectures. Undine is a prisoner to her own history: the mermaid’s legend is a horrible curse, and more than one character will need to shed their mortal coil. There’s a majestic sense of fatalistic defeat that looms over the deep romantic sheen and the opulent sense of melancholy of Undine.

Why This Is a GEM:

- This is a sophisticated, adult, modern take on a classic fable – it recalls such atmospheric films as Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves (about Little Red Riding Hood) or Matteo Garrone’s Tale of Tales.

- Director Christian Petzold is best known to Miami Film Festival audiences for his Hitchcockian thriller Phoenix, which played at our 2015 Festival. To watch a Christian Petzold film is to have that rare and pleasurable experience of not having any idea where the story is going next, but that you absolutely cannot tear yourself away.

- Actors Paula Beers, who plays Undine (and won the Best Actress prize at the 2020 Berlin Film Festival) and Franz Rogowoski, who plays Christoph, were previously teamed up in Petzold’s previous feature, Transit – and the remarkable chemistry that these two superb actors established in the earlier film is brought to full fruition in Undine.

This screening is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and sponsored by Alacran Group and The Consulate General of Federal Republic of Germany in Miami

  • Year
  • Runtime
    90 minutes
  • Language
  • Country
  • Premiere
  • Director
    Christian Petzold
  • Screenwriter
    Christian Petzold
  • Producer
    Florian Koerner Von Gustorf, Michael Weber
  • Cast
    Paula Beer, Franz Rogowski
  • Cinematographer
    Hans Fromm
  • Editor
    Bettina Böhler