© MFA/24 Bilder

Nothing Personal
Ireland/The Netherlands 2009

Opening 8 Apr 2010

Directed by: Urszula Antoniak
Writing credits: Urszula Antoniak
Principal actors: Stephen Rea, Lotte Verbeek, Tom Charlfa, Fintan Halpenny, Ann Marie Horan

We can only guess the tragedy that would make Anne (Lotte Verbeek) clean out her apartment in Holland – down to the floor boards – and walk all the way to Ireland. Alone, she seeks loneliness and goes to a solitary spot: an Irish peninsula called Connemara. She meets Martin (Stephen Rea) who lives in a rustic house at the tip of Connemara. In this (almost) two-person film, a little communication is sufficient for them to agree that she will work for food.

The film is divided into five parts with chapter headings such as “Loneliness” or “End of a Relationship” or “Beginning of a Relationship” (similar to the film She, A Chinese). In an interview, director Urszula Antoniak said that loneliness and freedom go hand in hand, but still this condition is rare in the Western world where happiness means constant activity. She thinks that there are two kinds of loneliness, which the film expresses very well: Anne is closed in upon herself. She wears the same clothes, carries her backpack ad nauseum, sleeps in a small tent and scorns comfort and beauty. Martin is also alone, but he enjoys his comfortable house, cooks, fetches food from the fields as well as groceries from the village, and reads book after book from his huge library.

Very stunning is the photography of the Irish scenery as well as the music. Ms. Antoniak said that the film is like a haiku poem: short (80 minutes) and creates a certain mood. Much of the film derives from her own experiences of loneliness (after her partner died), but also as an immigrant from Poland to Holland. She said, “People should become acquainted with immigrants around them. What do strangers know about each other?” Nothing Personal won six prizes at the Swiss film festival in Locarno including best actress and best first feature film and four prizes at the Dutch film festival.

The more I think about it, the more I like it, although I was impatient at the beginning. My first reaction (which I have since revised) was that Anne was a fake; after all, in the end, she got everything. It would be an excellent film to discuss with a group and also a good film for beginners to watch in a foreign language, simply because there is little dialogue; so if it should open in German in Hamburg, don’t let the language stop you. (Becky Tan)

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