Dorrie seems to have mellowed since Men and Nobody Loves Me, both of which were fresh and delightfully uncharted-water, passionately warm takes on one of her overriding concerns and themes, an exploration and advocacy of an existentialist philosophy of life. This time out, perhaps just for being another decade out post-existentialism, her labyrinth of expatriate German adventurers in exotic Spain ultimately feels oddly somewhat less fresh or less fully emotionally engaging but nevertheless is a solid and intellectually engaging new set of contexts and characters through which to examine more turns of the die. A child's-captivated-ear indoctrination into the myths which so easily lead us astray (into false hope, then deception, then dried-up going-through-the-motions stub-toed, danceless mere existence) frames what is broader in scope in this film compared to the previous two: there is no age or gender delimitation of focus here as we see random-encounterers young and old, female and male, show their vulnerability to idealized visions which leave them floundering. Through one particular children's tale which begins and ends the film, Dorrie implicitly observes that it is in the stories we are told that our false expectations of life take root, here a tale about a tiger and a bear who conjure up a ballyhooed idyllic land to set their sails for-a banana-growing nirvana named Panama. We adults know, wink-wink, the folly of the tiger and bear, but we love such stories and we crave expectation-building stories like an addiction, she seems to say...and thereby in childhood learning sets the stage for evaluating the ensuing adult ventures toward their own mirage-like horizons. So feed us stories, Doris: ...about a lost lover--or two, a lost wife or two (one mortally, another spiritually), a lost identity or two (one intentionally, another accidentally), a lost fantasy or two... or a dozen. The title would have us ask to what extent these losses of illusion, of dreamed-of perfection, impact our ability to see and feel true untrammeled pleasure in both ourselves (am I beautiful?) and in others (can I delight in making another happy? to realize and throw off the layers of claptrap that keep me/us from casting onerous cognition to the wind and instead to indulge the heart and the moment--from literally throwing one's possessions out the window to indulging what might have been an offputting fetishist's fantasies to singing out to engage the spirit of a foreign exotic spiritual procession and be willing to acknowledge in song one's fears and quests). It's not a new theme but it's reworking works, albeit keeping us a bit at arm's length from the subjects, perhaps (wittingly?) to mirror the arm's length from the fullness of engagement in life that is the nature of existence for her characters until varying quiet epiphanies open their paths to new alternative ways of perceiving. (In some ways, this medium-is-the-message reflection on the chagrins of a life lived at arm's length parallels that of the more recent French film Under the Sand.) As the path taken by Linda (Franka Potente)--one of the younger and central questers--displays, the search for the keys to existential truth, to 'be here now', can too easily alight on answers >that look programmable and can lead to 'false gods' along the path, most unacceptably that of inauthenticity. Just as Linda learns that she can derail herself entirely if she is not honest or tries to manipulate (trying to control others or their feelings with her bag of tricks whilst living in disguise from and thus not owning herself), so others learn how easy it is to kid themselves into thinking they've found the elusive 'peace' or 'simplicity' which they perceive in an ostensibly uncomplicated lover who then proves suicidal, or other escapist plan which goes awry. Almost nothing is what it, he, or she seems-until they learn to be vulnerable, self-accepting, sentient and thereby empowered. There lurks complexity and pain, just more buried in some than in others. There is no carefree Panama banana republic, but there is pleasure in honesty of spirit. And the voices of this realization come in some curious packages (further fleshing out the wisdom-where-you-least-expect-it notion whose fascinating messenger in Nobody Loves Me was the voice of a marginalized, lovelorn but lovingly unselfish transvestite): here an overweight chef who is blissfully married to his young-love sweetheart with a passion for her soul that knows no parameters or criteria but is unabashedly unconditional, a Spaniard who refuses to indulge his German girlfriend's need to hear spurious pledges of eternal love, the errant husband/father who seizes the moment to respectfully respond to Linda until her deception forces him to draw his line in the sand and thus startles her back to self-acceptance, another errant husband/father whose Caribbean indulgences have actualized his spirit of "to dance is to live" and who finally lures down the encrusted wall behind which his wife has been taking sullen refuge. Here it is most often the women who have internalized the childhood idyllic stories to their peril, having sold themselves a flurry of fantasies that focus on the future or the past, who with well-meaning enchantment see heaven in a red cashmere sweater they sell or buy, a stereotypically fanciful wedding gown, a notion of storybook romance, and who--with considerable blindness--stumble in seeking their way back to themselves. But they do listen, and learn.
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