Director: Eva Trobisch
Cast: Aenne Schwarz, Hans Löw, Tilo Nest, Lisa Hagmeister, Andreas Döhler
Berlin-born Eva Trobisch’s All Good – about a 30-something Munich lady struggling to acknowledge (as opposed to “deal with”) the aftermath of her rape – explores the uneasy emotional chasm that separates a ‘victim’ from a ‘survivor’. The film is unerringly confrontational in its depiction of this space – the chasm does exist, no matter how correctly we politicize its aftermath – through an accomplished lead turn by actress Aenne Schwarz. As Janne, a publishing professional for whom a drunken night at a party goes wrong, Schwarz becomes the face of every independent, strong-willed woman who might never have expected to be in such a situation. The kind of woman who is so shaken by an attack on her no-nonsense, serene character that she simply…avoids the “problem” to make it go away. All good, all is well – until it’s really not.
By narratively challenging Janne’s mindscape of denial, All Good lends perspective to the most uncomfortable questions surrounding the #MeToo movement: How can denial be the first civilized reaction? Why did she take so long to come out with her story? How can she be traumatized after forgiving her assaulter long back? Some of the answers lie in the film’s design of Janne’s life – she is at a stage in which she uses other crises as a ‘distraction,’ so that even something as serious as rape feels like just another rock in her mountain of woes.
Janne is in transition, both in career and companionship. She is in search of an editorial job. Her boyfriend Piet (Andreas Döhler) has declared bankruptcy, thanks to a sunken business venture with an unreliable partner. They move into his uncle’s empty house: an arrangement politely recognized by her more successful ex-classmates at a school reunion. She is comfortable – too comfortable – with Piet and his flaws, a fact illustrated by a blissful autopilot-style opening montage of their renovation-sex-food-sleep routine. She is the ‘stable’ one in the equation. All the calm builds up to the stormy night of the reunion, where it isn’t surprising to see Janne opt to let her hair down. She gets along with Martin (Hans Löw), a mild-mannered guest with a socially inept gait. They dance, drink and flirt; for her, this might lead to nothing more than a fleeting act of release and infidelity. And then it happens.
The economy of storytelling makes way for tense confrontations: the narrative virtually turns on its protagonist
The scene itself is devastatingly raw – not for its intensity but for its frightening lack of it, and on the contrary, for how very casually it unfurls. “Are you serious?” Janne asks, shocked, resigned to her fate in a split-second, after she realizes that this allegedly decent man (his Clark-Kent-ish specs add to the impression) misconstrues her lack of consent to be a teasing “yes”. She barely resists; you can sense that she is almost wondering where exactly she lost control of their little adventure. You can sense that she is wondering if this was in fact what she was working towards. Was this her vibe?
Psychologically, the sexual politics of the moment is positioned differently from that of the daring French rape-revenge thriller, Paul Verhoeven’s Elle. Elle knew she was being violated; she turned it into a perverse game of power by the end. Janne, though, is visibly suppressing her inner voice even as it happens, chalking it down in the ‘bad date’ bracket. Minutes later, she casually brushes her teeth before going to bed. It’s only when she wakes up, sober and hung-over, that the magnitude of her judgment dawns upon her. Janne is angry with herself; she hopes that the alcohol might have maybe coloured her view of the night.
Yet, she embarks upon a new job with the attitude of a person who is in fact trying to fool the film into believing that it “wasn’t such a big deal”. She tries to hide from our gaze.
It’s interesting how the narrative of All Good, too, begins to internalize her wavelength. To an extent where we almost forget about the incident, as if it were a bad dream. The film starts to flow from scene to scene, hoping to look like a separate film – Janne settles into a new routine, warms up to new boss/mentor Robert, and she continues her hot-and-cold live-in relationship (at one point, Piet overpowers her when she angrily lashes out at him – raising the unnerving question about whether her passive reaction that night might have been connected to Piet’s domestic misdemeanors). But there is only so far she – and we – can escape.
Aenne Schwarz is a remarkable performer. She presents Janne as a flawed individual – an adult whose reactions are tailor-made for the man-children she attracts
The film brings back Martin into her life, again, casually, forcing her to confront the consequences that she hoped to bury. It disrupts her custom-made sense of peace. As it turns out, he is Robert’s brother-in-law and colleague – a provocative setup that basically serves as a reminder that there was always something nagging us at the back of our minds. That here is a film that hinges on a startling crime – it’s just not going to go away. The economy of storytelling then makes way for tense confrontations: the narrative virtually turns on its protagonist. She battles against it.
Schwarz is a remarkable performer. She presents Janne as a flawed individual – an adult whose reactions are tailor-made for the man-children she attracts. She earns our empathy not for her humanity, but solely because she has been wronged in the worst way possible. Her “meltdown” is one for the ages: again, abrupt, but an action so regular and sad that it expresses how closure is merely a mythical term for those who choose to convolute their own sense of agency. How, perhaps, there is no real end to the ordeal. And how, in today’s times, being a survivor for others takes undue precedence over being the victim for oneself.