The Movie Waffler New Release Review (DVD) - HOMESICK | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review (DVD) - HOMESICK

homesick movie review
Following a move to Berlin, a cellist begins to mentally unravel.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Jakob M. Erwa

Starring: Esther Maria Pietsch, Matthias Lier, Tatja Seibt, Hermann Beyer

homesick movie poster

The tortured artist archetype persists throughout pop-culture, with the iconic image of an anguished creative providing continued appeal across entertainment mediums. Part of the attraction is that the archetype has a neat narrative potential built in (e.g. how will the artist in question overcome their demons, etc), but another reason is that we are suspicious, even jealous, of talent and ability, demanding that every gift comes at a price and that the golden people must suffer for their art (and our edification). If biopics like Love is the Devil or Mr. Turner had been about well-adjusted fellas who just happened to paint utter masterpieces then there would have been no film to speak of, and thus the extreme proclivities of Bacon and Turner are focussed on, with the ‘truth’ falling somewhere in between (and, otherwise, the movies would have literally been about watching paint dry, I suppose. I’m here all week, etc). The dynamic extends to real life too, with artists like Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf characterised after-the-fact as depressive tragedies, the actual work often overshadowed by the perceived legend.

homesick movie

It’s a Mephistophelian construct, this suggestion that profound ability involves severe, almost supernatural, protocols. And thus, in Jacob M. Erwa’s Homesick, cello student Jessica (Esther Maria Pietsch) moves to Berlin following an invitation to a highly prestigious international contest. Thing is, over the course of the film, the pressure, and the insular, weird rhythms of anonymous city living begins to get to Jessica and ‘reality and imagination blur’ (the blurb). While the tortured genius of a male artist is often played out through macho-hard work and sweat and blood obsession (cf Whiplash, Birdman) driven females are characterised by hysteria (Black Swan, The Piano Teacher).

homesick movie

The unravelling of Jessica in Homesick is a slow-burn affair, but nonetheless fascinating for the first half, due to Erwa’s deliberate story-telling. His camera hangs back, making an observation of Jessica as she settles into what increasingly becomes a stark, uncanny nightmare world. Her apartment is pallid, and her fella (Matthias Lier) grows increasingly impatient with Jessica as she frets about phantom noises and the older lady downstairs (in such films, the youth of the determined female artist is always exemplified by an aged, ambiguously intentioned counterpart). Even getting a little baby-cat (‘Pikachu’ - I know…) does little to lift the malaise.

homesick movie

The problem with Homesick is that, following a build-up which simmers throughout the film, the last act does not deliver the sort of pay off that we expect from such a carefully constructed atmosphere. The scares are quite minimal: it is annoying when people ring the doorbell and run away, but I’m not sure if it’s the stuff of nightmares. Further peril comes in the form of Pikachu going missing, but even this development simply relies on our instinctive, protective concern of a lost kitten, rather than threat which is earned. Most bizarrely, we don’t really get a sense of Jessica playing music and practising her art, at least not to the extent that we can understand her as a creative tortured to the point of madness. It’s almost as if we’re positioned to accept that women are just a bit too weak for all of this artistic business. By the time the film reaches its mind-bending, cathartic denouement, the frustration engendered by this uneven film may well have driven you mad.

Homesick is on DVD now.