Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Thought provoking, consistently inventive and at times haunting, Rolf Schubel’s 2003 drama Blueprint is one of the most engaging German films of the decade, and its current unreleased status in the United States is extremely unfortunate.
Starring a knockout Franks Potente in a stirring double performance as mother and daughter, the set in the near future Blueprint tells the tale of the first human clone and it is the kind of smart science fiction film rarely seen in these days of CGI spectacles and bloated big-studio efforts.
The acclaimed and multi-award winning Schubel has been working steadily in German film and television since the early seventies. He is probably best known for 1999’s Gloomy Sunday, an award winning production released in the States as The Piano Player. Schubel has a really nice subdued and thoughtful style about him, and these qualities are on fine display in Blueprint, a carefully plotted and intriguing item that looks at the consequences of a man and woman each attempting to play God.
Working from a novel by Charlotte Kerner, screenwriter Claus Cornelius Fischer weaves a potent and heartfelt tale that works as a realistic future thriller, a family drama and a potent coming of age picture. Bristling with grounded dialogue and elatable human situations, Blueprint feels like the work of a very mature and experienced writer. The fact that it is actually just the second feature from the pen of Fischer makes it all the more remarkable.
Schubel surrounds himself with behind the scenes artists that he has worked with before including composer Detlef Peterson and cinematographer Holly Fink, both of whom deliver fine work for the director here. The whole production has a real classy and well-proportioned feel about it, even though at times it comes across as a bit too calculated.
Potente delivers one (or actually two) of her best performances here, and it equals the already iconic work she did with Tom Tykwer that brought her justified fame in the first place. As the selfish but still tragic mother Iris who can’t stand the idea of her fame as a world-renowned pianist passing even with death, Potente has never been so intense, and as the cloned daughter Siri she has never been so moving. It’s a fascinating double role for the extremely talented Potente that is deserving of a much larger audience. The role meant a lot to Potente who had this to say about it on the eve of the film's release:
"Of course you are always asking yourself whether you can pull it off. It’s as though the acting process were doubled. It’s not just a question of letting yourself go and taking on another’s personality, but taking on more than one personality at the same time. The copy of a copy. So... who knows? That is what attracted me. I loved the screenplay right away. For me, this was an experiment, a calculated risk I ran together with Rolf, Heike and the rest of the cast and crew."
While it is Franka’s show all the way, Schubel surrounds her with a talented cast of German actors including terrific Ulrich Thomsen and Katja Studt. Everyone in fact delivers fine work in the film with special notice going to young Karoline Teska as the teenage Siri.
If Blueprint suffers at all, it is from perhaps an over earnestness, although honestly it was so refreshing seeing a modern Science Fiction film that didn’t fall back on million dollar effects that I can forgive its perhaps too somber tone. It stands, along with Soderberg’s Solaris, Vinterberg’s It’s All About Love, and Cuaron’s Children of Men, as one of the most successful Science Fiction films of the decade dealing directly with the human condition. If it finally isn’t the masterworks those pictures are, it is at least worthy of being mentioned in the same breath.
After being shot in both Germany and Canada throughout the early part of 2003, Blueprint hit German screens just before Christmas in 2003. It played there and in various European spots throughout early 2004 before landing in Cannes in the summer where it failed to land a distribution deal for the States. The brave film, which spans a quarter of a century in its under two hour running time, is currently available on DVD in Europe. Thankfully the disc does have optional English subtitles, making it a nice grab for any American Franka Potente or modern Science Fiction fans who are willing to track a copy down.