Breaking the Ice (2022)

Breaking the Ice
Director: Clara Stern
Writer: Clara Stern
Cast: Alina Schaller, Judith Altenberger, Tobias Samuel Resch, Pia Hierzegger, Wolfgang Böck
Seen on: 28.11.2022

Mira (Alina Schaller) loves playing ice hockey. It’s her one escape from her otherwise ordinary life, working with her mother (Pia Hierzegger) and her grandfather who is showing signs of dementia (Wolfgang Böck) at the family vineyard. When Theresa (Judith Altenberger) joins her team as a transfer from Salzburg, she starts to shake things up for Mira. And when Mira’s long lost brother Paul (Tobias Samuel Resch) decides to come home for a bit, Mira is caught up in a rush of change, questioning everything.

Breaking the Ice tells a queer story of character growth that is more interested in the questions and experiments that make us grow than the answers we arrive at for ourselves. I really enjoyed it.

The film poster showing Mira (Alina Schaller) and Theresa (Judith Altenberger) facing each other in hockey helmets.

Breaking the Ice is a very nice debut feature that continues the promises and themes Stern made with her short film Mathias (a strong film that was so awkwardly handled by cast and crew that I struggled with it). It is noticeably a debut with a few rough patches and bumps here and there, especially when it comes to putting the various story threads together, but it works very well overall.

The hockey parts felt a little dry to me, a little lifeless, especially compared with the scenes where Paul comes into play. When Paul, Theresa and Mira are out, they are in a bubble of fantasy and playfulness that is much more vibrant than anything else. The same sense of being its own thing should have been there for the hockey playing as well, but the film never quite gets there. Maybe it hits different for somebody who actually cares about sports, but for me it felt a little perfunctory.

Threesa (Judith Altenberger) preparing to play ice hockey.

The cast is young and strong. At times, they don’t nail the dialogues, coming off a bit wooden. But they always capture the emotions of the moment and give their characters enough life to be realistic and believeable. Resch manages to be larger than life, but it’s Schaller’s much more grounded and reserved Mira who keeps us interested in the film. The way Mira slowly stretches into different poses after being stuck so long in one position feels completely natural thanks to Schaller.

I loved that Mira is unquestionably into women, but that she starts to experiment with her gender. The film never makes much of it, and never arrives at an answer. Giving her the space to ask questions and not figuring it out was one of my favorite parts of a film that I really liked overall.

Theresa (Judith Altenberger) and Mira (Alina Schaller), the latter dressed as a man, out for the night.

Summarizing: definitely worth seeing.

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