Written and directed by Zoltan Paul
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It’s quite a simple rule of thumb – people in glass houses shouldn’t have affairs. Set in the charmingly quaint hinterlands of Germany, this is exactly what happens to a pair of lesbian couples in Zoltan Paul’s Woman’s Lake, but as compelling as the premise is, the results are decidedly less sexy.
In the backwaters of northern Berlin, Rosa (Nele Rosetz), a professional fisherwoman, is going through a rough patch in her relationship with Kirsten (Therese Haemer), a successful architect. At their lakeside bungalow, their contrasting sensibilities put a strain on their relationship; a strain made more taut with the arrival of Evi (Lea Draeger) and Olivia (Constanze Wächter), a young lesbian couple. As the two couples get acquainted, loyalties start to wane, eyes start to wander; and as the their relationships get closer, so to does the people in them.
From its tantalizing proposition, Woman’s Lake looks to be a film fraught with sexual tension and morbid eroticism, and it indeed starts off that way. Rife with playful flirting and stolen kisses, the movie’s infancy promises a sexually thrilling drama of the highest order.
However, the film never mounts in anticipation, with characters and their dynamics stalled for elongated periods. Perhaps it’s a bit lascivious to expect more, but the kisses never lead to anything more carnal. What this does is make the supposed infidelity feel almost innocent and whimsical in nature, which isn’t how the script treats it. The film uses the possibility of a ‘ménage à quatre’, or any kind of sexual intrigue, to bait the audience’s arousal, only to materialize as a frustratingly flaccid tease.
Another issue the film has is the overly simplified schism that exists between Rosa and Kirsten. The former is the typical pastoral Luddite, while the latter is the typical urban professional. The discontent, on Rosa’s part, is founded on Kirsten’s incessant dependency on her cell phone and work (a character device that’s more than cliché).
Other than that, there is no real back-story or indication of the relationship’s tumultuous history, which makes the entire affair seem arbitrary. The revelations that the film eventually does come up with are a case of ‘too little, too late’, and because the characters don’t really change from the beginning to end, it doesn’t seem necessary anyway.
The few positives that the film does have are its incredible use of the locations rustic appeal and the collectively proficient ensemble acting. However, these positives are unfortunately used to serve the films many narrative negatives, and with an alluring set-up that sadly disappoints, Woman’s Lake is a film you’d much rather look at than see.
– Justin Li
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