Because of World War 2 Rosemarie (Natalie Press) came to the UK from Austria with her father Friedrich (Matthias Habich), when she was just a little girl. Her father still dreams of being able to return to their villa in Austria, while they live in pretty poor circumstances. One day another exiled Austrian and friend of Friedrich’s, Anton (Johannes Krisch) shows up and Rosemarie falls in love. But she still isn’t sure where her place in life is.
Where I Belong tries pretty hard, but unfortunately fails in most aspects. The end product had me rolling my eyes so much, I got vertigo. Makes me pretty glad that I won tickets for the showing instead of paying to see it.
The first mistake the movie made was casting an English-speaking (instead of a bilingual/Austrian) actress in the role. Natalie Press’ German was just wrong and it continuously jolted me from the film. German is her mother tongue, she should speak it freely and without any accent. And while Natalie Press gave it her all, phonetically, it just never rings true. Just as much as Matthias Habich’s theater German sounds out of place. And for a film that is about the exile identity of somebody, language is such an important point – they should have gotten that right. The only one who does is Krisch.
I liked that the film went for Rosemarie’s story. It sticks with her and her slowly coming into her own, which also means that she frees herself from the men in her life to become independent. Which is generally a good story. Unfortunately the minute she veers away from the guys, the story descends into fantasy land. [SPOILERS] Recently laid off, poor Rosemarie basically goes on a weekend trip to Austria to try and get her father her house back. Which she apparently thought she could do by showing a photo of the house (Karl Fischer) to the current owner and telling him to leave or something. (That this doesn’t work is still very realistic.) Instead she faints and when she wakes up, the house owner and the doctor (Cornelius Obonya) he brought her to tell her that she’s pregnant. (Thanks for that gynecological exam while she was unconscious.) So she returns to the UK, gets a job at a place that isn’t actually looking for anybody by speaking German (the owner is also an exiled German-speaker) and being upfront about her pregnancy (yeah, right). And then she gets an apartment for herself and the baby and because she’s on her own with the child she even gets a rent reduction. [/SPOILERS] It would be great if women in the late 50s/early 60s could have it that way, but seriously… No.
So the story didn’t work and the cast didn’t really work for me either – which was not due to a lack of acting skills but more due to the casting itself: Natalie Press and Matthias Habich because of their language, as I said, and Johannes Krisch because he just couldn’t make the level of attraction work that would have been necessary to explain why a girl about 15-20 years younger than he is would fall instantly for him.
So there was nothing much, really, that could have kept me interested in the film and nothing really did. It just seemed to drag on and on and on and when it was finally over, I was just happy to be able to leave.
Natalie Press gave a quick Q&A after the film. She was asked how she liked working with Austrians and her answer was the best thing about the entire evening: “Despite such a small film industry, it’s amazing how many … passionate … film crew … people there are.”