Years ago, when I was an aspiring screenwriter, my first screenplay
was a modernization of Herk Harvey’s cult favorite 1962
drive-in thriller Carnival of Souls. In that film, a woman crawls
out of a fatal car wreck and moves to another town to get away from her
memories, only to find herself followed by a mysterious man and feeling
strangely drawn to a long-shuttered amusement park.
not that the movie was one of my favorites – in fact I still have only seen
it once, several years before I started writing it. However I thought that
it would be an interesting exercise as a first film. I had a basic memory
of the storyline, but I wanted to try to make sure that I not be too
faithful to the original and bring my own spin on it. Therefore I decided
not to watch it again and just go with my hazy memory and my own
imagination. After a few years of no bites on the script, I heard that the
film was being remade as a sleazy exploitation film starring comic Larry
Miller. I never saw that version, but the few reviews I saw led me to
believe that it was a botched attempt.
Eventually I just stuck the script in a drawer – but I always felt that the
storyline could become a terrific film, if it were made correctly.
comes Yella, a German film which was “inspired” by Carnival of
Souls. The storyline has been changed significantly – even the carnival
itself has been completely written out. However, Yella does capture
the disorientation and unease of the original.
course, the story is very malleable and everyone should bring their own
perspective to it – as I had in my own version. After all, if you get
technical, the original Carnival of Souls was itself a very loose
variation on Ambrose Pierce’s classic 1890 short story “An Occurrence
this new take, Nina Hoss plays the title character (which won her a Best
Actress Prize at the Berlin Film Festival) as an introverted woman who is
moving from her home in Wittenberge to a new job
hours away in Hanover, fleeing her
ex-husband (Hinnerk Schönemann)
– who appears to
be stalking her and is apparently abusive.
After surviving the wreck and moving, Yella ends up assisting a shark-like
businessman named Philipp (Devid Striesow) who uses her business acumen to
help with the hostile takeovers of local companies. Yella sees Philipp as
someone who can help protect her from her ex-husband – but can you ever
really trust someone who makes a living taking advantage of others’
There is a dreaminess to the action at the same time that the movie
occasionally gets bogged down in minutiae – we sit through a few too
many business negotiations for my taste (and most people’s, I would guess.)
Though I get the wrongness of what Philipp and Yella are doing for a living,
I have the feeling that as an outsider I may be
missing some deeper point about German life and politics which is intended
by director/co-writer Christian Petzold.
However, there are also some wonderfully suspenseful moments which crop up,
leading inexorably towards tragedy. Even if you don’t know what the ending
will be, you can feel bad things around the bend. For those who are
familiar with the original story, it is interesting to see how Petzold moves
the story away from the old plotline and to see if he corrals it back to the
or if he takes it in a completely different direction.
in the sections in which the action drags a bit, the hushed desperation of
will keep the audience riveted. She is an actress to keep an eye on.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: July 7, 2008.