Opening 9 Aug 2018
Naomi (Neta Riskin) is a Mossad agent who has been on leave from the Israeli intelligence agency for two years. She reluctantly agrees to spend two weeks in Hamburg, Germany “babysitting” a Lebanese source who has provided information to Mossad about her lover, an important member of Hezbollah. Naomi is given almost no information about Mona (Golshifteh Farahani), the woman she’ll be protecting, other than the fact that Mona has been whisked out of Lebanon and into Germany, where she’s had extensive plastic surgery to completely alter her appearance. For two weeks the women share an apartment. They tell each other about their lives, connect over tragic events in their pasts, reveal their hopes for the future, and establish a friendship of sorts, all while various plots are being hatched around them.
Aus nächster Distanz is a strange mixture, combining elements of a spy thriller and a slower drama about women talking and getting to know each other; it is based on a short story by Shulamith Hareven. As a Mossad agent, Naomi has been trained to be suspicious and cautious. Mona, on the other hand, is depicted as a melancholic femme fatale, constantly using her charms to navigate the world. Their interactions within the enclosed space of the apartment range from honest in feeling to clichéd female bonding rituals, such as Mona doing Naomi’s hair and makeup in one scene. The spy plot, meanwhile, has huge gaps in it, and often seems like something of an afterthought. It’s never really clear how certain elements of the story come to fruition – rather they’re presented as a fait accompli. In the end, neither the complicated affection between the women nor the unbelievable nature of the intrigue feels thought-through enough, which feels shallow and frustrating. It’s fun to see little bits of Hamburg on screen – the safehouse is located along Isestraße, recognizable to anyone who visits Isemarkt – but not enough to compensate for the movie’s flaws. (Diana Schnelle)