Spiritual Cinema Circle


Roeland Wiesnekker as Rolf, and in the foreground, Catherine Janke as Sarah, in "Auf Der Strecke", directedby Reto Caffi, who wrote the film's
screenplay with Philippe Zweifel.  "Auf Der Strecke" ("On The Line") is nominated for Best Short Live Action Film at this Sunday's Academy Awards.  (Photo courtesy: KHM)

Auf Der Strecke (On The Line)

Strangers On A Train, Linked By A Surveillance Of Guilt
By Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com         SHARE
Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oscar-nominated for best live action short film for this Sunday's Academy Awards, "Auf Der Strecke" (On The Line), which was made in 2007 as a thesis film, is executed to near perfection by its director Reto Caffi, worthy not only of its nomination but its coronation as Oscar's best.  As a short film it achieves the three c's -- clear, concise and compelling -- its tightly-drawn screenplay by Mr. Caffi and Philippe Zweifel leaving you wanting more. 

"Auf Der Strecke" is about a beleaguered department store surveillance operator in Switzerland whose guilt tests him after he sees someone on a train who is the apparent boyfriend of a woman at the store that he is pursuing as a love interest.  Rolf (Roeland Wiesnekker) does his job minding the store with a purpose but isn't as rigid as his colleagues are.  With nothing but the store to guard he like most grows lonely and begins to train his surveillance eye on one of the store's employees, Sarah (Catherine Janke), whom he grows more attracted to.  We know little of Sarah but we know that perceptions are often reality.  A key event takes place that will test everybody, most notably the film's two principals -- and does so in suspenseful fashion.

The intimate drama and conflict in Mr. Caffi's 30-minute film is played out in shots that are natural in both their interior and exterior scenes, with luminous color for many internal locales as contrasted with the stark nakedness of exterior shots of Switzerland, the director's native land.  The cinematography by Piotre Rosolowski is well-rendered, delivering comfort as well as the unexpected.  Grainy video footage is also an effective and powerful tool as the drama of "Auf Der Strecke" is heightened.  The film's mood is dictated by Mr. Wiesnekker's melancholic Rolf, who perhaps has seen far too much in his time on the job.  Rolf is adept at minding the store, but can he do as good a job minding his heart?  Mr. Wiesnekker effectively captures a restless spirit trying to look inward.  As played by Miss Janke (in her first film role) Sarah is smart, beautiful and consumed by a missed opportunity in her life and her guilt about the things that matter in life pull at her heartstrings too.  Miss Janke cultivates a character who appears to know a lot more than she lets on, and inhabits Sarah with a sense of investigation, urgency and introspection that makes her wonderfully authentic and mature.

Mr. Caffi directs in closed spaces, the claustrophobia of literal and figurative locations confining the characters.  Everything is narrowly focused, and for a very good reason.  Even in the rare instances of expansive spaces there's no escape as the psychological burdens swirl throughout the story.  Economy is the name of the game.  What we don't see and are left with the effect of is a tribute to a very talented filmmaker.  "Auf Der Strecke", which has won over 50 film awards worldwide including a Student Academy Award, appears destined for yet another this Sunday night.

"Auf Der Strecke" (On The Line), which is 30 minutes long is in German with English subtitles.  Mr. Caffi's film recently screened in New York and California as part of the Oscars nominated short film series, including earlier this week.  The short film will be shown at various film festivals in Beloit (Wisconsin -- next week), Finland, Norway Germany, Tiburon (California) -- all in March, and Barcelona, Livermore (California) in April and in France in June. 


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