"Lunchtime" in the cinema: Once upon a time there was a village - culture

Three short sequences mark the beginning of "Mittagsstunden", three snapshots from the passage of time. They are set in different decades in Brinkebüll, the fictional village somewhere near Husum, which in this Movie is a leading actor. First you see Sönke Feddersen's inn in 1965, a young woman runs out and away into the wheat field, where she smokes a cigarette and looks at the clouds, a great idyll.

It continues in 1976, the woman's name is Marret Feddersen, as we now learn, she fears the end of the world. That will also come for her this year, but everyday life is still the order of the day - Marret is standing in front of the grocery store, which is quite crowded. Marret's mind, you can see that this time, is a bit lost, people say she's "twisted", but nobody cares. The village is in solidarity.

The last sequence takes place in 2012, Sönke Feddersen is old, his wife Ella has dementia, the village is a no man's land. The streets are straight, the shops are gone, no people anywhere, as it seems in many places today. So the structural and social changes that have brought about the last fifty years are passing by, and they aren't pretty. The film continues to loosely weave these three timelines, assembling an image of loss that fills it with melancholy for long stretches.

There is another member of the Feddersen family, Ginger. In 1976 he was ten years old, meanwhile he has long been a lecturer at the university in Kiel. Ginger takes two semesters off and returns to "the old ones" in Brinkebüll, to the amazement of his friends in Kiel. But he wants to take care of it now while they're still alive, even if they don't expect anything from him.

Writer Dörte Hansen guides you through her novel "Mittagsstunden" with ginger, and director Lars Jessen now also guides you through the film with ginger. And through the tricky story of the Feddersens, which is a small psychodrama in itself, alongside the larger dramas such as land consolidation and rural exodus, alongside the inexorable passage of time.

Jessen does not show the agricultural change in a very subtle way. The images come across as jagged, curves become straight lines, fallow becomes field, the teacher saves a burial mound from the excavators at the risk of his life. The large tree in the village center is felled so that through traffic can speed along unhindered. The residents take care of the whole upheaval themselves, inspired by the belief in progress, only Marret seems to recognize what is lost in the process. Horrified, she stands under the tree on which the saws are already working, in the top you can hear birds screeching, which will soon be without a home.

Home is where the elderly know more about you than you do

Jessen also makes that the subject of "Midday Hour", the homeland. He shows it as the place where you know everything, the people and the processes, the paths and the shortcuts. To do this, he brings the past into play, because ginger realizes that home is where others know more about him than he does himself. The few villagers who are left know stories about his parents or grandparents, of whom he only knows rudimentary or even no has no idea. You follow him curiously through his biography, the beauty of which is that Jessen doesn't portray it sadly. Marret sings hits from the sixties and dances through the bar in stockings, Sönke takes care of her fatherless child, so touching that you can laugh and cry at the same time.

What Jessen also uses is dialect. There are two versions of the film, one in Low German and one in High German. The scenes were each shot twice, on Platt first because the essence of the scene seemed to become clearer that way. People don't talk much in this film, which is a shame, one would like to hear more Platt. Even with her sparse sentences, one notices how the dialect wears down the edges of the language, sometimes softening the content, sometimes intensifying it. For the locals, it creates a connection that outsiders cannot access, no matter how great the folkloric zeal. Plus, the plate reinforces the realism that ginger townsfolk crave as they palaver the pros and cons of their sous vide cookers.

Despite their coolness, they are sensitive in Brinkebüll, Jessen makes that clear. Above all about Sönke Feddersen, who gives the youngsters who have returned home more looks than words. But they usually have a deeper meaning than the dialogue, you can understand that with Ginger, played by Charlie Hübner, and it's terrific. He strolls lightly through the melancholy place, always attentive to the surroundings, which gradually open up a new perspective on his own life.

"noon hour" in the cinema: if she's allowed to sing, she's not "twisted": Marret Feddersen (Gro Swantje Kohlhof).

If she is allowed to sing, she is not "twisted": Marret Feddersen (Gro Swantje Kohlhof).

(Photo: Christine Schroeder/Majestic)

Jessen shows a lot of everyday life, starting with the hustle and bustle in the inn, where all the Feddersens help, to the mysterious disappearance of Marret - only two footprints are left of her in the tar of the driveway, as if she had taken to the air and like the birds flew away. He combines that with the present, in which ginger tries to bring some luxury into the lives of the elderly and fails, or rocks at the line dance club to boost the mood. What Jessen tells is rather unspectacular, it is spectacular how he links the personal to the observation of social conditions.

In addition, there are figures for which he does not subject himself to the nonsense of drawing "weird" people from the country, but lets them be as sad, idle, and bad-tempered as everyone else. They rarely become sentimental, sometimes he grants them a surprising friendliness. Through these characters, through their gentle behavior towards one another, Jessen's film gives cause for hope. Although he severely shows the damage that villages, society and nature have suffered in the past fifty years.

noon hour, D 2021 - Director: Lars Jessen. Screenplay: Catharina Junk based on the novel by Dörte Hansen. With Charly Hübner, Peter Franke, Gro Swantje Kohlhof, Hildegard Schmahl. 96 minutes. Majestic Film Distribution. Film release: September 22, 2022.

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