154) Yella (2007) Dir: Christian Petzold Date Released: May 2008 Date Seen: May 30th, 2009 Rating: 3.75/5
Christian Petzold's Yella is an intriguing puzzle almost entirely because of its tantalizing payoff. While there are infrequent hints that something un-natural, even super-natural, is going on in the newly overturned life of Yella Fichte (Nina Hoss), they are completely overshadowed by the gigantic question mark that the film's elliptical ending provides. That's quite a feat considering that these little hints especially stand out considering how steeped the rest of the film is in the jargon of its capitalist critique--as in Petzold's recent Jerichow, steely aggression is rewarded immediately and punished with Tragedy later.
Yella learns that lesson the hard way, leaping into a deceptively seductive new job as an accountant without carefully checking it out first. Rather than being completely dicked over, she gets an alternative business proposition of Ben (Devid Streisow), a go-getting stranger whose business sense impresses Yella first, followed by his modest good looks much later. You see, Yella's going through a rough patch right now--between being harassed by her obsessive ex-husband Tom (Hinnerk Schonemann) and the hard truth about her new job--making his curiously sexless proposal immediately appealing. That kind of pragmatism makes her a killer in the conference room and a major asset to her sanity considering the sudden mysterious emotional spells that periodically overcome her.
Yella's business sense allows her to readily adapt to her precarious and emotionally delicate situation as it unfolds. Periodically, she's snapped out of her spell of complaisance by a sudden, deafening jolt and is visited by Tom or overwhelmed by a throbbing headache. One time she's pulled out of the flow of events by the shotgun blast-sounding boom that precedes her taking a fateful car ride with Tom, another time by the breaking of a glass during a meeting. In both instances, she's awed by the presence of something bigger than her, some ultrasensory presence that overwhelms her with the feeling that she's almost certainly no longer in control of her actions.
Up until the film's ending, these little signs simply look like telltale signs that Yella is cracking up and that she will inevitably become the emotional descendant to Gaslight's Paula Alquist. Thankfully, Yella's last little twist is delivered with an admirably modest attention to detail that made me appreciate the myriad subtle little visual hints Petzold sprinkles along the way. It made me want to reconsider the meaning of even the most innocuous scene, like when Petzold lingers on Yella dozing, prostrate form. It establishes a tantalizing sense of mystery that complicates Petzold's otherwise simplistic socialist critique of bourgeois delusions and makes it a worthy predecessor to his superior Jerichow.