Festival Review: The Misplaced World / Die Abhandene Welt (2015)

Die Abgehandene Welt

Despite all-singing performances from Katja Riemann and Barbara Sukowa, Margarethe von Trotta’s The Misplaced World still makes for a jarring thriller.

Double Jeopardy

by Mark Wilshin

The Misplaced World

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

After her partly New York set Hannah Arendt, Margarethe von Trotta returns to the Big Apple with The Misplaced World, a mysterious identity thriller as part-time singer, part-time marriage celebrant Sophie (Katja Riemann) heads to New York to track down famous opera singer Caterina (Barbara Sukowa) – the doppelgänger of her dead mother. While lacking the importance or depth of her previous film, Die Abhandene Welt starts off well enough with a promising Chabrolesque premise, but even the stern and sprightly performances of Sukowa and Riemann can’t make sense of this mess. Partly in English, the New York scenes are uninspired, while back at home Trotta ups the ante with cheap thrills – such as the risible zoom in on Caterina (as Sophie’s father sees her for the first time) or the multi-purpose ending – a weak afterthought rather than a conclusion. With no tension, The Misplaced World is reduced to an increasingly absurd puzzle – as yet another wooden box of family secrets is produced. But as a metaphoric look into the skeletons in Germany’s troubled past, Die Abhandene Welt turns the world upside down as parents are rediscovered and reevaluated. And gradually exposing the secrets and lies of an older generation, maybe it’s not so dissimilar from Hannah Arendt after all.

The Misplaced World is now showing at the 65th Berlin Film Festival

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