The Architect

Sparse but oddly compelling oddball family drama.

Released in 2008, certified UK-Not Yet Rated. Reviewed on 03 Jan 2010 by Scott Morris
The Architect image

I have no idea what is going on with German cinema. I can only hope that it is in no way representative of what's going on with the populace as a whole, as if that's the case then there's been at least as much damage done to their culture as to Japan's during World War 2. They just keep it hidden behind family doors rather than have it break out into cases of giant lizards and used panty vending machines.

As such, I rather hope that this family drama is in no way representative of the average German family, otherwise the country is in poor shape. The architect of which the title speaks, Georg (Josef Bierbichler), finds himself back in his childhood home to attend the funeral of his mother. In tow are Georg's wife, Eva (Hilde Van Mieghem) and their two offspring, Jan (Matthias Schweighofer) and Reh (Sandra Huller).

It's not too long before long buried secrets start rising to the surface, to the benefit of no-one in particular. Indeed, given the sort of secret dealt with, I question why hiding it was ever deemed a practical idea in the first place.

Turns out that in the dim and distant past Georg's been knocking boots with childhood friend Hannah (Sophie Rois), with the tryst resulting in a child, Alex (Lucas Zolgar). The revelation of this causes understandable strain on the family relationships, although the ways they choose to deal with this is pretty much as weird as the individual family members themselves.

The Architect image

I don't particularly want to go into the details of what shakes out, as the interest in this film certainly doesn't come from the somewhat ordinary plot, but rather the extraordinary character traits of the cast. They are, to a man jack, quirky peeps. And I mean 'quirky' in the sense of 'really, creepily weird', not 'zany and offbeat'.

It seems like we're never going to be more than a few minutes away from something extraordinarily inappropriate happening, and while this well-tended atmosphere of social discomfort never really breaks out into an uneasy reality, frankly it's to the betterment of the story. The edge given to the film by the threat of something particularly grotesque lurking a few centimetres to the edge of the frame lends this film a unique and unsettling edge.

An edge it vitally needs, to be honest. These quirks aside, there's nothing else to the film. The narrative is almost absent and there's no discernible point, meaning or message to anything that it does. It's somewhat surprising, and a credit to the directorial skills of Ina Weisse and the cast members that this film is as watchable as it is, albeit not in any conventional sense.

On balance, I'm left with one of those films I'm seemingly entertained by more in spite of the film than because of it. It's a curate's egg of a film, to be sure, but there's few films like it, and that counts for a lot in a homogenous cinematic landscape.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 3/5 TippyMarks.

Ina Weisse
Cast list:
Josef Bierbichler (Georg Winter)
Sandra Huller (Reh Winter)
Sophie Rois (Hannah)
Matthias Schweighofer (Jan Winter)
Hilde Van Mieghem (Eva Winter)
Lucas Zolgar (Alex)