Judge Chris Claro notes that anyone into elderly eroticism will be on cloud 9 seeing this film.
Old folks. Young love.
We all age, and as we do, we experience all that is attendant to aging: loss of hair, weight-gain, degeneration of eyesight, sagging skin. But despite the physical downside of aging, we remain a hopeful species, trusting that we can maintain the ability to love and to be loved. A 76-year-old is just as hungry for connection as someone sixty years his junior. The case for love after 60—or 70—is made convincingly (and explicitly) by director Andreas Dresen and his co-writer Jorg Hauschild in Cloud Nine, the story of a long-married woman who falls in love with a virile septuagenarian.
As the film opens, Inge (Ursula Werner), a seamstress, is delivering a pair of pants to Karl (Horst Westphal). The seemingly mundane exchange is given an instant erotic charge as Dresen emphasizes the physical closeness of the pair, and shows how their initial awkwardness morphs into an almost primal sexual coupling. The graphic nature of the scene underscores the literal and metaphorical nakedness of both the actors and the characters and makes for an intense and powerful opening to the film.
Though it appears that Inge and her husband, Werner (Horst Rehberg), are still connected sexually—Inge returns home from her tryst with Karl and engages in graphic sex with Werner—their lives have settled into a mind-numbing routine; a big evening for the pair is sitting around listening to audio recordings of trains make their way through the German countryside. It is easy to see how the appeal of the vital, bike-riding Karl would draw Inge away from the unexciting day-to-day of her marriage to Werner.
Despite—or because of—the sex scenes, the stripped-down, scoreless Cloud Nine is a powerful drama that poses questions about what we owe our spouses and ourselves. Can long-term relationships remain vigorous? Can betrayal be transcended? Can there be forgiveness? Dresen doesn't offer any easy answers, but he does show that once Werner is informed of Inge's affair the character seems to come alive, as if his anger at his wife's transgressions has awakened in Werner the very passion he has been missing.
Though some viewers might not be able to get past the ick factor of watching two oldsters throw down, the very real nature of the faces, bodies, and personalities of the cast of Cloud Nine give it a borderline voyeuristic vibe that is both unsettling and affecting. Dresen favors long, wide takes, often placing the audience in the far corner of a room, making it complicit in the eavesdropping the director is doing.
The audio and visual elements of Cloud Nine are decidedly stark, though, since this review is based on watching a screener copy of the film, they may not be final.
Though it's no easy night at the movies, if you're interested in a frank, challenging, hopeful examination of love, sex, and marriage from a mature perspective, you can't do better than Cloud Nine. The film's respect for its characters and its naturalistic approach make it a satisfying and stimulating work.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Music Box Films
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