Undine Review – BFI London Film Festival 2020


Director: Christian Petzold
Starring: Paula Beer, Franz Rogowski, Jacob Matschenz, Maryam Zaree

Get your swimming goggles at the ready as German film director Christian Petzold plunges audiences underwater in his latest feature, Undine.

This watery fairytale tells the story of historian and freelance lecturer Undine, played by Paula Beer, as she carries out a post teaching about the urban development of Berlin over time.

Whilst lecturing she encounters a man called Christoph and after an unforgettable introduction they begin dating.

Plenty More Fish in the Sea

Undine stills

Credit: Canal+

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Petzold is in no hurry in telling his story as Undine opens with little more than a ripple.

At first, the film feels like it’s going to be nothing more than a history lesson, and at times you might feel as if the script has been lifted straight from the pages of a textbook.

This of course makes sense in the context of the narrative however it’s an aspect of the film that some might struggle with.

Although, when Christoph, played by Franz Rogowski makes his first appearance audiences will take to the film like a fish to water.

As we see the pair spending time together the film becomes a far more engaging watch than first expected and this romantic storyline proves to be the strongest element to the film.

Both Beer and Rogowski deliver impressive performances and they share a wonderful chemistry.

Beer in particular creates a mysterious edge to her portrayal of Undine, and it’s one that mirrors the trajectory of the story too.

Mysteries of the Deep


Credit: Canal+

Read more: Time Review – BFI London Film Festival 2020

This isn’t your stereotypical romance though as Undine delves into the German myths and fairytales surrounding the titular name of the film’s protagonist.

However, it is when the film begins this deeper dive into these mysteries that it begins to fumble.

Much like the murky waters that Christoph occupies in his day job as a diver, the narrative in Undine quickly becomes unclear.

The mysteries of the narrative induce confusion rather than intrigue and they squander the earned attention of the audience that the first half of the film managed to secure.

Some may enjoy the ambiguous twists and turns that Undine reveals as it navigates through its cinematic voyage but the counter of this will be the case for many, no doubt creating a divisive finished product.

Don’t Hold Your Breath


Credit: Canal+

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So although Undine initially does well to attract audience attention with its charming romantic storyline it struggles to fully reel you in with the subsequent mysteries of its narrative.

Thankfully the first half of the film is engaging enough to excuse this more scattered second half, and moments of its bemusement do at times inspire thought and intrigue from the viewer but ultimately it fails to complete its catch.

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The Breakdown


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