Director: Hanna Doose (Germany). Year of Release: 2022
Maria has just taken the 11-hour journey by motorbike from Berlin to what she possessively calls her “family home” in the Black Forest. It is not clear that meeting up with family is the first thing on her mind. She is filming a documentary about relationships, which will include something about her own relationship with her mother, and artist who committed suicide a long time ago. She hopes to illustrate this with some footage of the South German farm.
The film opens with several shots of different characters who we don’t know yet, but will be introduced to over the course of the film. First, there’s Maria, who we first see in Berlin, very far in all sorts of senses from the village in which she grew up. In the opening scenes, she picks up some cocaine then rides to the farm in full leathers. When she arrives, she expects to move back into her old bedroom, even though someone else is already living there.
That someone is Laura, and old friend of Maria’s who is now renting part of the house. Laura used to be an actress but is now trying her hand at making cheese (“but you never liked cheese”. Responds Maria). Much of Maria’s time and energy is spent looking after her goats and Kathi, Maria’s sister who is dying of cancer. If she moved away from the big city for a less stressful life, maybe she’s now reconsidering her decision.
Besides which, Kathi does not look like she wants to be looked after. She spent 15 years in Peru and is trying to fight her illness through Shamanistic rituals which include daubing mud on her face and taking herbs and hallucinogenic drugs. She initially reacts to her sisters return with indifference, although both of them are still processing their mother’s death (not least when someone approaches them at a party saying that mum chose art over motherhood and neglected them)-.
Maria, Laura and Kathi are also accompanied by a couple of men. First there’s Jan, Laura’s husband, and Maria’s ex. Jan still keeps a load of electronic hardware in a barn where he retires to spend some time on his own making music. He seems much less interested in the actual farming stuff. An early scene shows him answering the phone while pouring milk into a barrel. The tap at the foot of the barrel is still open, and milk pours onto the stable floor.
Back in Berlin, Jan used to provide the music for the theatrical performances which Maria directed and Laura starred in. Then he broke off with Maria and moved with Laura to the countryside, something which provokes great resentment and presumptions from both women. Most of the film is about how the various characters come to terms with their memories and lasting sores from old relationships which didn’t end comfortably.
There is a fifth character at the farm, who is so memorable that I’ve forgotten his name already. He is Dutch and helping out in the fields. Laura speaks to him in English and most of the others ignore him for most of the time. They bond over Gladiator and stand on a hill, turning and shouting “Are you not entertained?” But I’m not entirely sure what he’s supposed to add to the developing drama, other than to stand and watch the rowing friends looking faintly embarrassed.
Laura and Jan’s marriage is hitting a rough patch, and that’s before Laura tells her husband that she’s pregnant by the man who runs the local guest house. Maria’s arrival puts the cat among the pigeons even more, and both re-awakes old animosities and paves the way to the odd sentimental group hug. Kathi is at first distant with her estranged sister, then Laura suspects her of hitting on Jan and shouts at her old friend that she wishes she go back to her Berlin life.
Apparently the dialogue was all improvised, which may account for the fact that for large periods of time, we don’t seem to be going anywhere. But it does also result in some scenes with a freshness which we rarely see on film. For example, when Maria is bumming some money off a drug contact in Berlin, she asks for €250, but notices that he’s already in the process of handing her a sixth €50 note. The way in which she quickly changes her demand to €300 just feels authentic.
There are also some great individual scenes, most of which ended up in the trailer. Maria and Laura arm wrestle, Kathi lies naked in the snowm and all three of them cross a very high dam in costume, with Maria wearing pink rabbit ears and Laura in angel’s wings. Such scenes are highly memorable, have a certain panache about them and break us out of the anxious conflict which dominates much of the film. And yet they are no substitute for entertaining plot development.
Wann kommst du meine Wunden küssen? (great title, by the way, translated as When will you come and kiss my wounds?) is a film that is easier to admire than love. It is a pleasure to see a film where the main characters are women of a certain age, and the actors are untethered by too restrictive a script. And yet it doesn’t quite end up being as good as its individual parts, maybe because you never end up really rooting for any of the characters.
We see people falling out and making up without having a strong sense that any of this really matters. We can sit back and be impressed by the good acting, but I never really felt excited, or sad, or any deep feelings at all. It is a strong drama, but someone else’s drama, and not one with which I felt much personal involvement. It was interesting enough while I was watching it, but I didn’t take too much home from it.