Director: Philip Groning
Starring: Alexandra Finder, David Zimmerschied, Pia Kleemann, Chiara Kleemann
Written by: Philip Groning
Running Time: 175 mins
Release date: 22nd August 2014
Cinema can be many things. It can be a way of expressing feelings and emotions. It can be used as an artistic tool. A form of entertainment or it can convey a story with meaning and a message. The Police Officer’s Wife is a German art house film that deals with a tricky and tough subject matter, that of domestic violence, yet for a film that is handling such a controversial topic, it is often cold, disjointed and emotionally distant.
Uwe is a Police Officer living and working in a provincial town. His wife, Christine is a stay at home mother with their young daughter, Clara, an inquisitive child. Everything seems to be normal, a life of domestic bliss but the truth of the matter is that Uwe has an uncontrollable temper that, even at the slightest thing, is released and used on his wife.
The film, running at five minutes short of three hours, is broken up into 59 chapters. Each scene is an individual part that begins with a caption telling us what chapter and ends with the same. This constant interruption breaks up the natural flow of the story and this is only the start of the problems. Because we are shown these sometimes annoying captions throughout the film, it stops us from really becoming emotionally involved.
In fact, the whole film doesn’t equip us with the tools to be emotionally involved. Scenes come and go, some with no dialogue, some with absolutely no point whatsoever. We get shots of birds and squirrels in the woods that constitutes a chapter. Shots of the back of a chair or a child’s drawing that is another chapter. These are interrupting the flow of the story, although that is fairly thin too.
We are not told a thing and we are left not knowing a thing even after spending a large clump of time on it. We are never told anything about the characters. We just watch them going through day-to-day routines, which is fine except what we really want to know is why? Why does Uwe do the things he does? What triggered him to be so violent towards his wife?
There are some beautiful shots of domestic heaven, as Uwe and Christine arm wrestle, or blow bubbles or play darts. We get to see mother and daughter as they explore the world around them or plant in their makeshift garden. We see Uwe at work, dealing with a deer hitting a car or a road accident or just driving around in the patrol car but we never really know who these people are.
When the violence does occur, it does shock and it does anger but because we feel so distant to the couple, it doesn’t have the emotional punch that we expect and so it comes across as violence for violence sake, in order to shake the audience. It never explains why, never comes back at us with a moral or answer, just a moment of shocks and then cut to another chapter card.
The cinematography is, in places, wonderful to look at and the performances, mainly a three hander between Uwe, Christine and their daughter and perfectly naturalistic but it never seems enough. You just feel that this is a film made by a man who loves art and wants to tell us a powerful tale yet cannot pull himself away from the pretensions of his own world. So instead of a three-hour emotional roller coaster, we get a drab, sometimes dull, sometimes shocking, sometimes beautiful film that doesn’t amount to much.