Alle reden übers Wetter / Talking About the Weather

Director: Annika Pinske (Germany). Year of release: 2022

Clara is 39 and feels that she doesn’t fit in. She’s finishing her PhD on Hegel’s concept of freedom, and doing a bit of teaching to see her through. We see a class of her showing her students one of Roy Lichtenstein’s “Brad” paintings and asking about assumptions that women need a big strong man to protect them. Some of her male students are just one step away from saying that #metoo has just gone too far, and you can’t rape a girl nowadays without them taking offence.

Clara spends a bit of time at academic (in more than one sense) parties, where professors speak with great passion about how terrible things are in East Germany – somewhere where they’ve probably never set foot, certainly not the deprived areas that they’re talking about. Clara is actually from deprived East Germany, although she’s invented a diplomat father to make her sound more interesting. Later, when this doesn’t seem to work, she has her fictional father shoot himself.

The first half of the film is a series of snippets of Clara’s life at work and in the flat that she still shares with someone else. At one point Sandra Hüller arrives. That’s good – Sandra Hüller is great. Everybody loves Sandra Hüller. There’s even a photo of her in the press photos for the film. But she is only here for one scene. She says her lines, which are mildly humorous, then disappears, never to be seen again.

Clara’s daughter Emma lives with her father in a massive house with a huge front garden. I find Emma to be slightly underwritten – though maybe our lack of knowledge of her is supposed to reflect Clara’s inability to connect with a daughter who she rarely sees. Or maybe Emma is just underwritten and mainly there as a stage prop so that Clara can visit her mother and grandmother. See there, four generations of women from the same family. That might be symbolically important.

On the surface, Clara’s work and home environments could not be more dissimilar. At the academic buffets they drink champagne from crystal glasses rimmed with actual gold, while in Mecklenburg they eat and drink frugally from paper plates. Guess what? Clara doesn’t fit in in either environment. She feels that she has escaped the stifling atmosphere of her home village only to arrive somewhere where she doesn’t really know how to behave.

Clara tries to rediscover her past by staying late in the bar with the landlord Marcel, who is an old flame. They play darts together – not British pub darts with an old wooden board but the German electronic version which sounds like an amusement arcade every time a dart hits the board. For whatever reason, this feels less down-to-earth Proletarian than downright tacky. You sense that if Clara sleeps with Marcel she’ll retain some sense of purpose. She goes home alone.

The idea of being stuck between the culture in which you grew up and the one in which you currently live is not a new concept. It’s been visited by films as diverse as Sobo Swobodnik’s semi-autobiographical Klassenkampf and Lewis Gilbert’s film of Willy Russell’s Educating Rita. The problem is not finding something to say about the subject, it’s more about saying something new, or in a different way to previous attempts.

And here’s the problem. Everything that Alle reden übers Wetter seems to want to say was done much better by Russell 40 years ago. There are some significant differences between the films, not least that Entertaining Rita is much more entertaining, More importantly, Rita transcends her working class background but is never sucked into academia – she never changes how she speaks. Educating Rita is class conscious whereas this film is merely intellectual interested in class.

Towards the end of the film, Clara gives a lecture addressing the questions: How to enable an intersubjective conceptualization of freedom? What might an intersubjective dynamic of the social look like? How could this be identified as a dynamic that enables freedom in a positive sense? The camera pulls back to show that she is alone in the classroom. I’m sure these are interesting questions, just but if they remain in the realm of the academic, just how much use are they?

Maybe the big problem of the film is that, despite its interesting set ups, it mainly only responds with clichés and stereotypes. Particularly in the first half, characters seem to have been more set up to carry out a thought experiment than to be people who might exist in real life. In the scenes filmed in the East German countryside, the characters are more authentic, but as Clara has decided to escape them, the film doesn’t really know what to do with them.

In the final scene, Emma lines up alongside her fellow pupils at some sort of class concert. There is a string section, brass – but also guitars and drums. As they get going, you realise that they’re playing Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name. Just before they get to the “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me” bit, we cut away and the end credits roll. This is the film in a nutshell – more ready to intellectually discuss dissent than to actually engage in it.

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