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August 16 2022 1:53 AM ˚
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Die Wunderübung : marital therapy comedy

2. Die Wunderubung
(Photo: Handouts from the Royal Film Commission)
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Love is in the air and married couple Valentin and Joanna will do anything to save their relationship in the Austrian film “Die Wunderübung”.

The film, which means “The Miracle Exercise” in German, was screened Monday at the opening the first Austrian Film Days organized by the Royal Film Commission in cooperation with the Austrian Embassy in Jordan.اضافة اعلان

The film, directed by Michael Kreihsl, adapts the tabloid marital crisis play by Daniel Glattauer with Devid Striesow and Aglaia Szyszkowitz in the leading roles. Its focus is on a couple who want to save their troubled relationship with a therapist, when the session takes an unexpected turn.
The plot
Love can do almost anything: break hearts, move mountains, destroy kingdoms. However, there is one thing love cannot do: bridge the gap between a couple that has grown apart. Two people who once loved each other and could rely on one another more than they could anyone else.

Now, many years and many experiences later, they speak a completely different language. Joana (Aglaia Szyszkowitz) and Valentin (Devid Striesow) stand on opposite sides of the aforementioned gap. After more than a decade of marriage, they communicate with each other argumentatively, so their daughter forces them to see a couple’s therapist. The therapist (Erwin Steinhauer) is very happy with the two of them.

There has been a trend in recent years toward minimalist argumentative comedy. Roman Polanski’s play adaptation “The God of Carnage” still tops that genre in terms of originality. Not only did the genre start with him, but the controversial director also perfected all aspects of the energetic chamber play.
Western style
The film’s entire story plays out within a single room. In Wolfgang Thaler, Kreihsl has one of the best local camera operators at his side, who tweaks the three-person action a Western style. You are almost permanently in dual mode. Above all, the wide-screen framing emphasizes the distance between the husband and wife. If they are separated from each other by a shot, they suddenly appear tired and exhausted. Valentin promptly falls asleep during an esoteric exercise in which he is supposed to remember something beautiful from the past.

In its second half, Die Wunderübung takes a turn that is not quite as unexpected as the author probably thought is. In general, this merry-go-round of relationships is so mechanical that you can easily predict what happens next. Plays and films in the genre usually harbor a moment of madness; the possibility of breaking etiquette and conventions. Regrettably, it does not happen in this film.

An unfortunate consequence of the film’s adaptation from a play is that it does not transition well; the deliberately sober setting loses the magic of the stage when a screen is introduced as a “barrier”. Additionally, a therapeutic exercise intended to break the ice instead — spoiler alert — builds more tension to the detriment of the film. It leaves the viewer confused.

Die Wunderübung’s presents powerful dialogue as a solid basis for the film adaptation, but it fails to rid itself of its theatrical atmosphere. Furthermore, viewers see the twist coming halfway through, which deflates the film’s tension.


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