Undine Film Review @ Brisbane International Film Festival 2021

'Undine' 'Undine'

‘Undine’ is a film elevated by the talent involved – you can see how a version of this story could be told with less mystery, a brighter palette and heightened performances and be no-where near as effective.


A reminder that sometimes films are not what they are about but how they are about them.

At the end of the movie, even if you are unfamiliar with the myth of Undine, you might reflect that the story played out much as one could have guessed but like a lover wrapped up in the moment of an affair, we find we have been feeling everything too much to think straight.

Paula Beer plays the titular Undine, a striking actress (think a German, red-haired Kylie Minogue) who sublimely underplays every note of her performance. Set in the modern day where Undine works as a historian giving guided tours at a museum, Paula conveys someone who is possibly centuries old. If you have seen it all then there is no point in getting worked up, but at the same time you still feel things. She is matched wonderfully with industrial driver Christoph, played by Franz Rogowski, whose great talent as an actor remains suggesting the depth of what his characters are thinking and feeling without clearly expressing it.



Director Christian Petzold shoots Berlin here as a rather gloomy metropolis, even deserted. We have a sense of foreboding, particularly when a totem Sea Diver figurine takes a tumble. The sound design creates parallels between heavy breaths when moving underwater or during sex. How the city and the ocean can drown out all other noise and how ultimately silence itself can be deafening.

In the story, time alternates speed for the couple, the love affair between the two seems to skip a few scenes the film decides are inconsequential and instead gets to the big moments that endear Christoph to Undine. These are not teenagers, but they certainly are in the midst of that first insatiable period.

Seeing and believing in the happiness between the two is crucial to the film’s success as it gradually reveals what their fate will be. How affecting you find the ending is down to how much you are caught up in their love story, or maybe just any love story.

It takes courage to make such a heartfelt love story these days, but that is exactly what has been achieved here.

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