Opening 13 Sep 2007
Yella (Nina Hoss) is a young woman who leaves her husband Ben (Hinnerk Schönemann), in spite of his promises to change his ways. Her last encounter with Ben lands both of them and his car in a river from which both must crawl, soaking wet. She leaves her village of Wittenberge for a new chance in life. In her hotel she meets Philipp (Devid Stiesow), who hires her for a few days to check contracts and wrap up business deals. She is brilliant in pointing out competitors’ weaknesses and finalizing business profitably for Philipp, who hires her for another gig. Ben finds and stalks her; she sleeps with Philipp.
This German, three-person drama by Christian Petzold stretches over a few days. All three spend much time driving and telephoning and gazing at the sky as crows and airplanes fly over. Yella joyfully calls her father to report that things are looking up and perhaps he will have a chance to meet her new friend. However, things seem not quite right: Yella always wears the same clothes; she emerges from the river with both her high heels firmly on her feet; she finds an empty train compartment. There is a surprise ending, but my idea that Yella was a supernatural witch was wrong.
This film showed in competition at the 2007 Berlinale, and during the press conference Director Petzold said he took the idea from a U.S. Civil War short story by Ambrose Bierce. The actors appreciated Petzold’s special way of working; namely, long rehearsals without make-up and costumes during which the actors were encouraged to develop their characters themselves. Yella was filmed at the huge EXPO campus in Hanover, which makes the film seem even more devoid of characters. There were various speculations about the name Yella, but I still believe that it is short for Daniela. Nina Hoss won best actress at the Berlinale for this role. (Becky Tan)