THE POLICEWOMAN

Die Polizistin

 (Andreas Dresen, Germany, 2001) 95 minutes

THE POLICEWOMAN

Director: Andreas Dresen
Produces: Christian Granderath, Norbert Sauer
Screenplay: Laila Stieler
Photography: Michael Hammon
Editor: Monika Schindler
Axel Prahl (Mike)
Gabriela Maria Schmeide (Anne)
Paul Grubba (Benny)

Reviews and notes

The eastern part of Germany is both a stony desert and a human desert. The film does not present Germany's green heart in Thuringia or the attractive holiday resorts in Mecklenburg. Instead, it is set in Rostock, in a district made up of prefabricated concrete blocks, home to almost half the city's inhabitants. A police station manned by police officers who are better described as social workers than as fighters against crime.

A precise description of the social landscape is not exactly mainstream in the Federal Republic of Germany's purportedly fun society. DIE POLIZISTIN is consequently not a consumer film to be seen and forgotten. It is an exceedingly precise description of certain states in some parts of German society and the narrative is both exciting and sympathetic, without misery or cosmetic touching-up. No matter how documentary the film's nature may be, it is not a documentary film.

The director described the Englishman Ken Loach (Riff Raff, Raining Stones, My Name is Joe), an impressive and understanding chronicler of British social upheaval, as his mentor. Andreas Dresen is an East German documentary filmmaker. His first feature film Stilles Land (1992) describes a small town in the GDR before the demise of communism; it is a precise, but also fairly quietistic description. In Nachtgestalten (1998), his viewer is overwhelmed by the density of the tale and the quality of the actors. Here too, in DIE POLIZISTIN, Dresen falls back on characters from the novel or report Nachtgestalten, which is strikingly enough set in southern Germany. DIE POLIZISTIN is more modest and does not attempt to compress a whole variety of human fates into a single night or one police station. Instead, the film attempts to locate the policewoman Anne's personal fate in a precise representation of a certain social situation: we have Rostock in upheaval and, in its midst, a young woman who has just left police college and been thrown in at the deep end, in a situation full of human problems for which she is totally unprepared.

Films touch our hearts when the human fates which they present appear plausible and understandable. Anne is a perfectly normal woman with secret desires and reactions to her colleagues and the world around her. Her one desire is to live her own life, vivre sa vie as Godard said. Anne is full of warmth, an outgoing person. The love scene with the Russian is magnificent as she sleeps with him, totally free and cheerful, with a radiant face. The picture is completely different when she sleeps with the policeman, for he is married and she knows it. Although outnumbered by male colleagues, love is not an easy matter for her. And that is not her only problem: she is too soft for the job, as her colleagues soon discover.

The other characters are just as plausible as Anne, there is not a single real 'baddie' among them, whether among the police officers or their 'clients'. There is the whore, a poor soul and also a small businesswoman who steals from her clients, although they are no better than she herself, and whom Anne tries to help out of pity, but also out of a sense of female solidarity. Then there is Benny's mother, addicted to pills and always ready to accept a drink; despite her own problems, she also tries to help Benny, somehow. The sight of the couple being told by the police officers that their son has committed suicide is positively heartbreaking. Even the Russian who finally abuses Anne's goodnaturedness is not a dark character, but merely a victim of circumstances, just like young Benny whose future prospects are not exactly rosy.

A true, but by no means hopeless, picture of life somewhere in our country and our times.
- Ulrich von Thuna, Goethe Institut

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