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A poet struggles for the just-right words to memorialise a past romance

Driving through the Bavarian countryside on a cloudy day, a poet finds himself seeking artistic inspiration in moments from a past relationship. Revisiting intimate details about the girl he left behind in Munich, memories come flooding back – the moment they first met, bathing together, her dimples, her curly hair. But as the poem starts to take shape, he suddenly questions the accuracy of his memory. Did she have hazel brown eyes? Or were they green? Riding in the back seat of his red Volkswagen Golf, among cardboard boxes and blankets, we join the poet on this nostalgic road trip as he jumps from the present and tries to recapture the past.

We’re not given much information about the driver, played with endearing charm by the actor Dimitri Abold. Perhaps he’s an American who once studied abroad in Germany, and has returned on a road trip of self-discovery. We know even less about his love interest, depicted by the actress Aline Gomes, magnetic in the role. By keeping the backstory hazy, the German director Nathan Engelhardt dodges romance-genre clichés more deftly than his protagonist, allowing the couple’s shared moments to feel specific and authentic. Through this style, the audience, in sympathy with the narrator, is left to piece together an incomplete patchwork. What was the couple’s first date like? How long were they together? And how did their relationship end? Like an evocative piece of poetry that leaves lingering questions, these fragments create a vivid, yet partial, picture.

The short film plays out in a time-hopping montage that mirrors the protagonist’s artistic process, as each incomplete memory forms a line in his poem. Flashbacks start and end with jarring fourth-wall breaks, as he snaps out of his own memories to wince at his poor word choices. The viewer is given a small sense of bearing via the film’s two contrasting colour palettes, divided between warm hues for the poet’s idealised memories, and cool, greyish tones for the gloomier present day.

Does all this uncertainty make the narrator unreliable? Or, perhaps, he’s just unable to summon the past in a way that feels satisfying or true? But what does seem clear is that, although impermanent, the relationship possessed moments of beauty. This comes across strongest in the final scene, when the camera is brought up to the front seat of the car and the poet reaches beyond it, into the past, to touch his ex-lover’s face. She tucks her head into his hand, as he finally grasps the feeling that he was trying to convey all along. In the moment, for both the viewer and the narrator, the strength of the emotion is able to shine through the fog of memory.

Written by Tamur Qutab

Director: Nathan Engelhardt

Director of photography: Noah Böhm

Producer: Maxi Mayer

Website: Bitte Einen Film

8 June 2022