Unter dir die Stadt
Germany, 2010, 110 min
A high-flying corporate bigwig meets his match in Christoph Hochhäusler's tense drama set in the upper echelons of Frankfurt’s banking sector. It’s a malevolent world of high finance and corporate malfeasance, in which dour men sit around gargantuan tables in penthouse boardrooms plotting the takeover of rival firms. The dourest of all is the reptilian Roland Cordes (Robert Hunger-Büehler) who, at the outset of the film, seems to have lost some of his appetite for conquest. A chance encounter with the wife of an underling reignites the fire in his belly, and soon it’s business as usual for Roland, except that now his machinations play out in the bedroom instead of the boardroom. His enigmatic paramour Svenja Steve (Nicolette Krebitz) is no shrinking violet, as Roland quickly discovers, and before long he finds himself embroiled in some of the most delicate negotiations of his career. But what laws of attraction could possibly explain Roland’s allure for Svenja, a sensuous young woman with a doting husband? As it turns out, the two share some unsavory proclivities and secret pasts, which they can only reveal to each other. Their illicit affair is tested when Svenja discovers Roland has orchestrated the transfer of her husband to a precarious position in Jakarta, but even that betrayal may not sever their dark bond. Evocatively filmed and impressively acted, Hochhäusler’s solemn tour de force is an utterly fascinating excavation of nihilism and late capitalism on the wane.
Special support for this program generously provided by the Goethe-Institut San Francisco.