Review: “Lamb” and “Deutschland 83”

Image from Pixabay.

Duo of screen delights?

By Stewart Tunnicliff

These two screen gems are/were a delight to watch, even if one may be a bit more like rough coal to some.

The first is Lamb (2015) – a bleak yet somehow beautiful big screen indie movie. Despite getting a 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it has received some criticism for not knowing “what it is saying” or having too “many open questions”. It certainly is a film that is bound to cause debate and stir controversy.

Focusing on an unhealthy relationship between an old guy (David Lamb) and a very young girl (Tommie), it has undertones of that literature great *Lolita* without so much sexualisation. But just like the book it will play at your preconceived notions of narrative and the boundaries between platonic, intimate and sexual relationship, and you may, dear reader-to-be-watcher, find yourself trying to predict the plot or cursing at the screen to not go there. There are threads of loss, grief, love, familial neglect and the precarious bonds of friendships that will weave through you and around you as the story progresses. A film that sets its backdrop of supposedly unnatural bonding in the, at times breathtaking and
somewhat barren, urban and rural American landscape.

The female lead Tommie is taken away from her urban drudgery by becoming immersed in the aftermath of a hiStory of Lamb. The actress, Oona Laurence, is certainly a child star to watch out for: her acting and story were somewhat reminiscent of a young Natalie Portman in Léon, with more of the naive innocence of the role mixed into her character.

Lamb’s story is well navigated by Ross Partridge; but despite the open questions, I felt at times that there were details missing from the arc of his narrative development. All the same their story has enough meat and bones to keep you sated as a viewer, and has the dark and light, tender and turbulent elements that are the chiaroscuro nature of an unconventional but believable story.

Let me know if you got your fill or “hast die Naese voll” (can’t take it) from this diamond in the rough.

Which brings me to the small screen and Deutschland 83 (2015), a very believable story that is getting quite a bit of global press and faint praise and accolades.

Although only three episodes in, I am enthralled by this glocal co-produced and distributed (RTL/UFA Fiction/Sundance/Channel 4) mini series. Like the GDR/DDR stalwarts I have mentioned before (watch ’em for free) this series plays out during the West/East divide in Germany. A very teutonic political thriller that has some of the pacy punch and feel of an American series. Its setting at the height of the Cold War and amid the potential threat of American President Ronald Reagan pressing that dreaded red button makes for avid viewing. The contrast between West and East is nicely staged with seemingly authentic sets, props and costumes, and even the soundtrack which aptly had Nena (“she is everywhere”) and David Bowie (RIP) in the first two episodes.

Some cultural touches you will be aware of, like the smuggling of Nescafe coffee as a luxury, but others may surprise you and keep you hooked. As does the story and character arc of the male lead: Jonas Nay wonderfully portrays a sense of bewilderment, wonder and intrigue at the ways of the West. Kidnapped and duped into spying on the *other half*, he is taken from his comfort, family and friends and thrown into the unknown. It is a story that my German friends from both sides of the wall claim captures the Zeitgeist, and the awful predicament of being stuck between those two Masters of War (Russia and America) knowing that should push come to shove and the conflict escalate they would be mere canon fodder, and would have been the first to suffer from the fallout of nuclear warheads hitting the strategic targets of East Germany or Moscow. This series IMHO could purport to be as hard-hitting and worthy of as much praise as the Tom Hanks thriller Bridge of Spies.

Catch DE 83 on Netflix and let me know as a glocal what your takeaways from this socio-historical drama are. And as a local what is your take on it and your story?

Coming from a theatre and performance background, and being a celluloid aficionado, it only seemed right that Stewart aka theLingoGuy pursued this through his other passion of writing. He is also very excited by the theatre and documentary scene developing locally, particularly English Theatre Leipzig, DOK and GlobalLE. However, he keeps an eye on the ground breaking stuff in the Fringe, Slam poetry, Battle Rap and the many fusion genre TV series and films. As you can see, you can expect a diverse palette of stage and screen choices, as well as other passions that he will paint from with his words.

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