“Caught in a lie“ takes on triple meaning in director/writer Nicolas Flessa’s terribly-honest, perfectly paced tale of infidelity, selfishness and emotional despair.
It’s a love triangle that figuratively, subtly and literally reflects equally on three lonely hearts.
Nazim’s (Erlap Uzun) cocaine habit is feverishly fed, alone in his rooms. As the magic powder is inhaled, his pent-up face competes with the remaining lines on the flat glassy dispensing surface. Uzun gives a magnificent performance as the perpetually-masturbating (between doing women with pleasure and men with inner disgust) drug addict. Flessa wisely uses little dialogue, letting the camera do most of the “talking.” Uzun’s eyes are especially adept at speaking volumes with sideways glances or yearning looks down to the desperately desired private part whose preferred “taste” he will fight in public to deny.
A Polish immigrant and social worker (largely with prostitutes) by day, Jana (Beba Ebner) opts to stray from her career-minded boyfriend and sample Nazim’s sexual delights in order to keep her libido fully satisfied. The phone call with her distant, concerned mother is shot while she stares into a mirror falsely assuring herself and doting parent that everything is fine. Ebner carries off the complex role with quiet confidence even as her world falls apart; the underwear, sunbathing sequence with best friend Julia (Annabelle Dorn) has just enough hint of lesbian attraction to further Flessa’s theme.
Playing lover to both, David (Florian Sonnefeld) seems perfectly happy to bed man or woman. All of the sex activities are just hot enough to stir the fires of viewers no matter what turns their crank, revealing only just enough skin to whet the appetite for a more generous helping. Caught in the side-mirror of his car (paid for from his university gig of forging even younger minds), he seems all innocence (just that once … it doesn’t mean he’s gay …) until a chance encounter for a much more deeply felt return-match with Nazim leaves Jana abandoned at the dinner table, while David greedily chows down on her illicit lover. Sonnefeld’s outer-innocence is most convincingly belied whether devouring Nazim’s petulant mouth or munching on a candy-covered Jana (make-up sex of the most delicious kind).
Naturally, none are aware of the mutual connections; predictably—this has to happen or there’s no film—everyone’s deceitfulness is revealed. It’s here that the production has its best moments. Giuseppe Vaccaro’s camera (artfully hand-held during David’s bold stalking of Nazim through the seedy streets of Berlin’s Neukölln district) coupled with Flessa’s expert editing, capture the tears, anger and emotional wreckage of Jana and Nazim even as the beautifully tattooed object-of-their-desires sleeps blissfully—unaware in his post-coital calm that the inevitable volcano of hurt is about to erupt.
The artistic icing on this purposely-pathetic cake comes from the music. The original score (Dorhan Atalay, Boris Bojadhziev, Kirsten Hahn) is beautifully string-rich (notably the cellos reinforcing taut, soaring/plunging angst); a covey of charts (Kitty Solaro’s rendering of “Songs in the Radio” being just one excellent example) add musical commentary as the principals continue their cheating ways; and the uncredited baroque aria—most hopefully a male alto, underscoring the ambiguity of partners once again—provides ideal contrast to the coarse language of lies laid bare. “You’ve been fucking my boyfriend,” says Jana; “You slut,” replies Nazim. Both are suddenly stunned by the awful truth that makes neither of them able to claim any right to the high road.
It’s a film that could never have a happy ending, yet its scenes still play daily in the theatre-of-unquenched-lust, filling illicit, craven cups wherever humans are found with more than time on their hands. JWR