In Christian Petzold's "Something To Remind Me" (2002), the air of fatalism hanging around the thing from the very beginning feels even more authoritative than any other in his long career. Tomas (Andre Hennick) sees a beautiful tall blonde Leyla (Nina Hoss) sharing his swimming pool and tries to start up a conversation. She ignores him but begins to slowly creep up into his life. She's there when his brother chats up a random girl having lunch at the same cafe. She eventually agrees to go out with him, leaving him breathlessly wondering where she went after a night of simple and unassuming exhausted sleep on his couch. The story abruptly shifts away from their relationship when Leyla begins working at a vaguely realized halfway house, again slowly but assuredly encroaching into the universe of one of the men housed there. Lurking, overweight and giving off the sense of a human teddy bear who often doesn't understand his own strength, Blum (Sven Pippig) can't help but notice Leyla's unsolicited flirtations. From there, "Something To Remind Me" crawls ever so carefully towards a climax that seems obvious and complex at the same time, firmly ensconced in the Petzold universe of Hitchcockian deception, social class divide and muted emotions. Not only is it a towering achievement of all these things, but further proof that Petzold is one of the finest directors working today.
Originally released on television in Germany, "Something To Remind Me" manages to elicit strong emotions of sexual persuasion and intense purpose without overtly showing anything... notably through the performance of Nina Hoss. Hiding so much behind her duplicitous gaze, the film gives off the feeling that everything is headed towards a shocking denouement by the way Petzold withholds certain information. And when that shocking finale does come- in typical Petzold fashion- it hits like a battering ram because the motives and decisions and consequences are so fraught with meaning and understanding. We accept why Blum does what he does. We feel for Tomas, a man who was thinking with something else on his body instead of his head, and we certainly can align with Leyla in her stoic, resolved plan. How all three come together is quite stunning.
"Something To Remind Me" marks the first collaboration between director Petzold and actress Hoss.... a partnership that will have lasted over 15 years now and five other terrific works, culminating with their masterpiece "Phoenix" (2015). It's like a match made in heaven as Petzold's camera seems to adore Hoss and the way she maneuvers around the frame and Hoss giving us just enough humanity to permeate from behind her typically icy facade. Like the best femme fatales, its easy to see why Tomas falls so hard for her and allows her to set her plan in motion. What isn't cookie cutter is the way Hoss makes us root for the femme fatale in serving justice to the injustices of the past.