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Cinema Signal:

The German Cinema Book
by Tim Bergfelder, Erica Carter, Deniz Gokturk
January 2008
(In Paperback from Amazon)
[Ed. note: because of the unpredictable way accented letters are rendered
in English language browsers, they have been intentionally omitted.
SPOILER ALERT: because I felt the need to discuss some aspects of the film
that could be considered spoilers, the reader should be forewarned.]
"Four Minutes"
(aka, "Vier Minuten")

This German character study takes up the cause of a callous, prison hardened problem prisoner in a penitentiary for women whose rage at childhood abuse masks a musical talent that brings her to the concert stage. But, of course, it's not that simple.

That Jenny von Loeben (Hannah Herzsprung) is able to work through her formidable rages in order to practice on the keyboard of a grand piano comes about only through the discovery of her talent by grey-haired, elderly Traude Kruger (Monica Bleibtreu) who has been giving piano lessons to the convicts as a means of rehabilitation and to a few of the guards.

Nearing retirement age, Kruger is alarmed when Direktor Meyerbeer, (Stefan Kurt) the warden, advises her that her job there is destined to end because of the little interest it's been arousing in the prison population.

Looking now at Jenny as a possible chance to turn that around, she discovers the quixotic nature of her would-be student, her defiance, her nearly uncivilized manner and the promise she has bottled up. Little by little, prison issues, brutal guards and the tell-tale signs of a very troubled childhood are worked through while the music of the masters and some original composition by Jenny fills us with a very brittle hope that the genius she possesses will not be tragically wasted.

As for the meaning of the title, that comes in the finale and, if you've got a musical bone in your body, you'll appreciate how it involves composer Annette Focks' original piece of classical new music in the tradition of John Cage, taking his work for prepared piano into the realm of performance art. It's a genuine tour d'force of inventive expression with the instrument, not to say how the unique presentation will send some of us out of the theatre with our passions ignited.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

Opinion Section
Comments from readers:
I very much look forward to this movie. While I appreciate the reviewer's commentary, I am extremely disappointed in the many uneccessary spoilers that were provided by this reviewer, esp. given that the very unpredicatable nature of this movie seems to be one of it's most exciting and promising attributes.
                                                           ~~ lakshmi jackman
[Ed. note: Some revisions and the spoiler warning above the review was added in response to this feedback. What's your take on it? ~ Jb]

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Hannah Herzsprung as Jenny von Loeben
A force of nature in art and hostility.

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