The good old days seem gone, and six old friends are breaking up. Emilia and Felix have recently broken up and are still going through the pangs of separation. Felix is financially strapped whereas Dylan’s overnight success on the stock market has made him and his beautiful wife, Charlotte, fabulously rich though definitely not any happier. Annette and Boris seem happy enough at first glance – but are they really? And what is happiness anyway? What is love?
eyelights: its cast. its core concept. its set design. its quirky bits. its dialogues.
eyesores: its miserable characters.
“You don’t see me.”
Being in a healthy Relationship with someone is about being “naked”. It’s about being able to be yourself, allowing others to be themselves with you and being accepted for who we are. But what happens if you’re no longer able to truly see the person(s) you’re with anymore? Is it possible to reset your sights?
These are the questions explored in ‘Nackt’, a 2002 film by Doris Dörrie, director of ‘Erleuchtung garantiert‘ and ‘How to Cook Your Life’. It takes three young couples, long-time friends who do everything together, and explores their dynamics after years of drifting apart. Can they salvage what they have?
The pictures revolves around a dinner that is taking place at Dylan and Charlotte’s, newly-wealthy thanks to the stock market. Upon hearing about Emilia’s research, wherein multiple couples are blindfolded together in a room and instructed to find their respective partners by touch, the group decides to try it.
And bet on their success.
But the exercise exposes the rifts that they had been ignoring throughout dinner, and each couple finds itself questioning its future. Could jealousy, disappointment, insecurity and resentment tear them apart once and for all? And what will become of their friendships when the dust finally settles? Could they lose it all?
Frankly, I found the idea behind ‘Nackt’ quite good.
I loved that we were introduced to each couple first, with Feliz and Emilia having bitterly broken up recently, Boris and Annette not being on the same page, and Dylan and Charlotte adjusting poorly to their new-found wealth and the lifestyle changes that come with it. We got a chance to learn about them first.
Then the picture brought the group together at the house for banter, dinner and then the afore-mentioned experiment, the centrepiece of the proceedings. After which it separated the friends again, and we followed each couple in reverse order from how we met them, as they all try to find a new way forward together.
It was well-conceived and delivered.
What really impressed me in the picture was the care that was put in the presentation, not just in its structure but also in the set designs and costuming: each of the homes had its own flavour, being a reflection of its owners, and the characters had a number of clothing changes to better express their inner lives.
The most impressive set of them all is Dylan and Charlotte’s home, which is a modern construction with a massive kitchen, large dining area, a sunken living room, gardens, coloured all white aside for these large panels that separate the room in primary colours. It’s antiseptic, but its distinctive flavour really impressed me.
The next most remarkable set is Emilia’s apartment, which is strewn with things leftover from Felix’s departure. She strings a clothes line across the living room, which is filled by a large tent, and she keeps an inflatable dingy in the middle of another room. Admittedly, it’s utter chaos but it really gives the place character.
In light of Emilia’s peculiar tastes, it’s not surprising then that she would cover her dress with a offbeat corset made of bandages she wrapped around herself. Meanwhile, Dylan and Charlotte change many times, unsure of what’s appropriate for the occasion. Charlotte ends up dressed up as rococo as it’s imaginable.
It all speaks volumes.
The dialogues were excellent in that they felt natural, like real people talking. What was interesting is that there was palpable tension underlying everything: the banter was slightly strained, with characters trying to hide their resentments and/or suspicions, saying one thing but frequently meaning something different.
The performances were also quite solid, though the characters could be detestable – especially Dylan with his philandering, Felix with his verbal abuse, Emilia with her flakiness and Charlotte with her mood swings. At least Annette and Boris weren’t entirely unlikable, despite also having their own personal issues.
Thankfully, this is all offset by their quirky behaviour, with each male doing a singalong to his respective partner in the first part, Dylan and Charlotte sitting around with paper bags on their heads in order to revisit a gag they’d once pulled with their friends, and Dylan frequently riding around the house with his bike.
And, of course, there’s the experiment, which found Dylan, Charlotte, Boris and Annette stripping and, after being blindfolded by Felix and Emilia, touching and caressing each other to find out who was whom. It was playful and sexy, with close-ups showing hands moving on naked skin. It was quite a lovely sight.
So, ultimately, ‘Nackt’ was entertaining, despite the depressed and/or anxious characters and their ailing relationships. It’s conceptually sound, its execution is impeccable and, though it doesn’t really shed any light on romantic relationships, it does offer a little hope once the couples bare it all and hit the reset button.
Truly, Relationships are always better naked.
Date of viewing: March 19, 2017