Review: ‘The Girl and the Spider’ muses on farewells, people and the places we loved
Everyone stares at each other a little too long in “The Girl and the Spider,” the new whimsically offbeat meditation from Swiss twin brothers Ramon and Silvan Zürcher.
With yearning eyes, the ensemble cast wanders in and out of two apartment buildings, the one where Mara (Henriette Confurius) and her roommate Lisa (Liliane Amuat) lived together, and another where the latter is now moving. As if the shifting of furniture and unpacking of belongings had awakened unexpressed sentiments, the transition between the abodes stands in as a symbol for a shared, profound longing among all involved.
Impeccably precise in its spatial construction, the Zürchers’ kinetic blocking and cinematographer Alexander Haßkerl’s dynamic framing preserve the naturality of commonplace human activity, as it all unfolds in a notably controlled chaos, like a ballroom choreography with many dancers to coordinate.
Still-life-like shots of objects in the aftermath of a scene speak of tangible memories that remain even after time has moved on, while two recurrent pieces of music — the ’80s French hit “Voyage Voyage” and Eugen Doga’s entrancing waltz “Gramofon” — further anchor the spacious flats and their inhabitants to souvenirs of the past still imprinted in the rooms.
Though we are never certain of the true underlying feelings between Mara and Lisa, or anyone else for that matter, a palpable tension exists. There’s plenty of tacit information to read between the lines since every interaction is flirtatiously charged. Whether between Lisa’s mother (Ursina Lardi) and a handyman or between young mover Jan (Flurin Giger) and the young women, these relatable souls all try fighting solitude, or the prospect of it.
After each intimate exchange brings two of the characters closer, telling one another their dreams or taking us into magical cutaway about other neighbors’ lives, the Zürchers reveal someone else was listening nearby, thus continuously weaving a web of connection. Confurius’ Mara, who once befriended an arachnid, exudes an alluring aura and a mischievous cruelty that seems to make her the center of the film’s orbit.
Unassumingly electrifying and amusingly elusive, this modern-day fable focuses on the marks we leave behind in others when paths diverge and physical distance grows. Narratively cagey as it may seem, “The Girl and the Spider” clearly, and affectingly, muses on farewells, change and our enduring or fleeting bonds to people and the places where we loved them.
‘The Girl and the Spider'
In German with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles
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