Sophie (Katja Riemann) has a difficult relationship with her bossy father Paul (Matthias Habich) and ever since the death of her mother, things haven’t gotten any easier. But when Paul stumbles upon a photo of famous opera singer Caterina (Barbara Sukowa) who looks a lot like his deceased wife, he asks Sophie to fly to New York to meet her and figure out the connection between them. And Sophie consents, almost despite herself. But getting in touch with Caterina isn’t easy as she’s abrasive and not interested in dragging up the past.
Die abhandene Welt has many strengths, but unfortunately also one stumbling stone that pushed me out of the film more than once. Still, there was more than enough good stuff there to make the film very much worthwhile.
I have to admit that my major complaint about the film was that I was completely confused about how old Sophie and Caterina were. It turns out that Caterina is Sophie’s older half-sister, but Sukowa also posed for the photos taken of their mother and that meant that we never saw their mother any older than 60 or so, which also made it unclear how old she was. So you had three female characters, two of them played by the same actress who were supposed to be a mother with her two daughters. The daughters were supposed to be a little apart in age, but how much nobody knows. And since both Riemann and Sukowa both have kinda ageless faces, I kept doing math in my head, trying to figure out how old Sopie and Caterina were and how old their mother was when she died and when they were born and it was all really distracting – and unnecessarily so. If they had just clarified the respective (in passing), I would have been able to focus much more on the story.
And that would have been worth paying closer attention: it was a thoughtful story that developed as fluidly and organically as the characters in it. And I loved the way Sophie and Caterina grew closer and slowly bonded. It was nice to have that sisterly relationship be the focus of the film, and not their romantic relationships or their daddy issues. We don’t get that nearly enough in films.
The cast was wonderful as well, especially Sukowa and Riemann – who both not only impressed me with their acting, but also their singing. Sukowa’s rendition of Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (a Friedrich Rückert poem set to music by Gustav Mahler) was particularly memorable, though i also very much enjoyed the jazz numbers Riemann gave us.
Great cast, good music, interesting story with even more interesting characters – that makes for an excellent movie in my book and one that I enjoyed a lot, despite the few shortcomings.