Bildnis einer Trinkerin [Ticket of No Return] (1979)

Bildnis einer Trinkerin [literally: Portrait of a Drinker]
Director: Ulrike Ottinger
Writer: Ulrike Ottinger
Cast: Tabea Blumenschein, Lutze, Magdalena Montezuma, Orpha Termin, Monika von Cube, Paul Glauer, Nina Hagen, Günter Meisner, Kurt Raab, Volker Spengler, Eddie Constantine
Part of: We Are One Film Festival
Seen on: 1.6.2020

A young woman, the drinker (Tabea Blumenschein) buys a ticket to go to Berlin where she plans to drink as much as she can, whereever she can. At the same time as her, Soziale Frage (“social question”) (Magdalena Montezuma), Exakte Statistik (“exact statistics”) (Orpha Termin) and Gesunder Menschenverstand (“good judgment”) (Monika von Cube) arrive in Berlin for a conference. Their paths keep crossing with the drinker as she makes her way through the bars, accompanied by the homeless woman (Lutze), also a drinker, she befriended.

Bildnis einer Trinkerin is a strange film. Visually impressive, it remains on the level of metaphor rather than storytelling, making it rife for interpretation rather than more straightforward understanding. I really enjoyed going on that journey.

The film poster showing the protagonist (Tabea Blumenschein) walking through a hallway underground in an extravagant, futuristic dress.

I think it’s a pity that the title of the film was not literally translated. Because “Bildnis” – portrait – refers to a visual level that is central here and probably the film’s strongest part. This gets completely lost with the official translation. Be that as it may, the film is absolutely striking. Blumenschein is a beautiful woman and that is accentuated with the outlandish costumes she wears in the film, as well as the make-up that goes along with it. But that isn’t all. The locations, the metaphoric images and the cinematography come together here to underscore the film’s generally dreamlike atmosphere.

The film is a sensual experience: you feel like you get drunk along with the protagonist. The intoxication she feels is mirrored in the short, episodic structures of the film, in the high-minded scientific discussions the background characters keep having that remain mostly inaccessible, in the feverish quality of the episodes. At the end, it’s almost as if you actually drank your way through Berlin yourself.

The protagonist (Tabea Blumenschein) drinking from a red flower.

I can imagine that the film doesn’t work for everyone. It’s certainly not an easy film or light viewing. But I was quite taken with it. I thought it’s a spiritual predecessors to Eine flexible Frau – it would be definitely super-interesting to watch these two together and see what the comparison brings out of both. And I can’t wait to look more at Ottinger’s work.

The protagonist (Tabea Blumenschein) standing behind a galss window that is being cleaned.

Summarizing: Interesting and strong.

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