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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Yella

MOVIE REVIEWS

YELLA (2008)

Starring Nina Hoss, Devid Striesow, Hinnerk Schönemann, Burghart Klaußner, Barbara Auer, Christian Redl, Selin Barbara Petzold, Wanja Mues, Michael Wittenborn, Martin Brambach, Joachim Nimtz, Peter Benedict, Ian Norval, Peter Knaack and Thomas Giese.

Screenplay by Simone Baer and Christian Petzold.

Directed by Christian Petzold.

Distributed by The Cinema Group.  89 minutes.  Not Rated.

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Yella

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. 

It’s 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. 

Now 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. 

Of 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 at Owl Creek Bridge.”

In 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’ misfortunes? 

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 same conclusion or if he takes it in a completely different direction

Even in the sections in which the action drags a bit, the hushed desperation of Hoss acting 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.

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Copyright ©2008   PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: July 7, 2008.

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