Movie Review: Undine

Undine (or Ondine, as it is also spelled) is a mythological figure of European tradition. A water nymph or sprite, Undine could become human only when she fell in love with a mortal man. However, if the man would be unfaithful to her, he was destined to die. German director Christian Petzold reunites the stars of his 2018 award-winning film, TRANSIT, to give a modern take to this timeless tale of an attraction that could prove fatal.

Undine Wibeau (Paula Beer, NEVER LOOK AWAY/WERK OHNE AUTOR; FRANTZ) works as a historian lecturing on Berlin’s urban development over the centuries. When her boyfriend, Johannes (Jacob Matschenz, NEVER LOOK AWAY) dumps her for another woman, Undine informs him that she’s going to have to kill him. Naturally, he doesn’t take her seriously and he leaves. Just minutes later, Undine meets Christoph (Franz Rogowski, IN THE AISLES/IN DEN GÄNGEN) and it’s love at first sight for both of them. Christoph works as a commercial diver repairing Berlin’s underwater infrastructure so the two seem perfect for each other. Their relationship is going along smoothly and Undine starts to believe that perhaps the curse is broken until Johannes returns and tells her that he wants to get back together with her. This causes a rift between her and Christoph.

Petzold seems to have hit on a winning formula with his two stars. They are so natural together that I thought they might be a couple in real life. Neither actor appears to be in a relationship so if they are together, they’ve kept it amazingly hush hush. The story very wisely keeps the audience guessing right to the end whether this Undine is, in fact, that Undine. Even when all is revealed, you may be wondering if what you just watched was real or simply the figment of one character’s imagination. The presence of a giant, age-old catfish swimming around the murky waters of the Spree certainly adds to the possibility that Undine might just be immortal.

UNDINE premiered at last year’s Berlinale where Beer took home the Silver Bear for Best Actress. It’s opening in our cinemas in Hong Kong today (May 13). Check it out and get swept away!

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