by Álvaro André Zeini Cruz

Thomas (Benno Fürmann) sees Ali (Hilmi Sözer) on the edge of a cliff. On the other hand, Ali looks at the abyss and sees his wife, Laura (Nina Ross), sitting by the sea. She and Thomas gave each other a hot kiss during the short time Ali climbed the slope. Had the husband seen the kiss? Is that why he thinks about throwing himself? Fate acts before, and the sandy soil spits over Ali, which clings to the roots. A moral question arises for Thomas: should he save his new friend (and, consequently, the obstacle to the fresh romance) or let him plummet, throwing himself unstrung into a plot of desire?

The triangulation between characters and looks suspends the action, ensuring that this story is not only one of desire but desire and death. Thomas watches the moment of the accident, and Ali fights the fall in the depth staging. Then, Laura looks at her husband but soon moves away towards Thomas, a distant but firm, definitive point, a counterpoint to the other, which oscillates hanging. Bordered by the ravine, Thomas looks back for a long time, seeing her on the counter field, as a far presence, but complete, unimpeded, and, above all, that looks back at him, without hesitation. The strict stability between the eyes marginalizes what is already on the margin, the unstable and fragile vertex of this love triangle. Finally, Laura places a decision on Thomas. The cut on the same axis returns to the lover, firm face and feet, but who finally shoot to the aid of the other.

There are more chances than answers to this action: perhaps the rescue is due to Thomas’ good heart (as Ali himself will say below), but the lover may have realized that her husband was still useful to him and Laura. The fact is that the symbolism and the conclusion of that scene throw the trio into other abysses. For Christian Petzold, the desire in Jerichow is a force that arises to catapult the bodies or force them to jump. On another occasion, as soon as the husband leaves the scene, the sex bursts a few meters away, in a corridor, with Thomas and Laura going to the floor between bitten hands to stifle their breaths. The mark of the dental arch is the scar of desire, but Petzold films this type of detail with a purely denotative interest, which contrasts it with the record made by Claire Denis and Trouble Every Day (another film that deals with the same dichotomy).

Petzold is interested in the movement, the desire revealed in the transformations of the eyes and mouths, exposed and visible even at a distance (except for Ali, whose blindness is convenient and sadomasochistic). In Jerichow, desire is in the hands that break out of the shade of a tree to pull the other body towards that imaginary abyss; it is in the response of the hand that emerges from the extra field to draw not only the desired body but the camera’s accomplice look. Unlike the other adaptations of The Postman Always Rings Twice (and I say this in a memory exercise, without revisiting the films of Visconti and Rafelson), in which sexual attraction was a game of negotiations (with advances and retreats) that culminate in a planned homicide, here the plan and the car are resignified almost as ironic winks, as this is a film of bodies and pores, cracks, tectonic plates whose eruptions are organic. In this sense, there will be no other path for one of these figures than the tragic anticipation of what is natural – death, which returns to the scene of the first impulse, the first kiss. Jerichow is a film about stocks launched on successive precipices; desire as the abyss of the body, death as the abyss of the soul. Unmissable jumps; sides of the same coin.

Displaying at MUBI.

This text was translated to increase access to it, but the translation was not done by a professional translator. If you find any mistakes, please help us by leaving a message in the comments area.