I am seldom bored in a film, but The Police Officer’s Wife tried my patience to its limit. 175 minutes of what? 59 short chapters about four characters in a landscape; two characters in an abusive relationship – Kalle and Christina and their daughter Clara, plus an older man who said nothing, never met the other three and might conceivably been Kalle as an old man living on his own…
I am quite in favour of unusual presentation, but Philip Gröning (I think that might be pronounced Groaning which would be highly appropriate) took the unusual step of blacking out the screen with Augang (Beginning) and Ende (Ending) of each chapter. The first three were non-verbal, as were several others. Chapter 1 was utterly baffling, we were in a wood and someone ran past; Chapter 2 cannot even remember what that was, we were indoors I think; Chapter 3 we met the old man in a snowy landscape, at first he had his back to the camera, then he turned and faced it, a woman with a dog walks past and another dog ran forward to greet them. We met the old man several more times: we watched as he got dressed, he made a small meal and ate it, and he slept in the chair, we also went into his kitchen but there was no sign of him. We met Kalle: coming home from work, taking of his uniform, stowing his gun and going upstairs, and so on, sometimes he was with a colleague doing policemen’s stuff – sorting out traffic accidents, driving round the street etc. and sometimes he was at home and a lot of the time that was not pretty and we also met Christine and Clara: Christine showed Clara interesting things outside, planted seeds and sang songs; she was clearly depressed and hardly ever got fully dressed and probably wasn’t washing as at one point Clara said she smelled nasty. She loved Kalle, but he said she destroyed him and he was clearly destroying her – what to make of it?
I don’t know, I found it boring. It was unclear what the point was and as there was no continuity, the chapters seemed not to have a distinct sequence, there were spring scenes and winter scenes and summer barley, but in the right order – no, not really so were we to understand that this took several years? Why in that case did Clara not get appreciably older? There was some shocking violence, and Christina got some awful bruises – so clearly this was an unsatisfactory state of affairs. Did she drown the daughter and herself? Maybe?
The day was redeemed however by the second film: Half of a Yellow Sun by Biyi Bandele, with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Joseph Mawle, Anika Noni Rose and Onyeka Onwenu as Mama. Set between Nigerian Independence Day and the unsuccessful Biafra Civil War we follow the lives of twin sisters Olanna and Kainene, the screenplay is an adaptation of the book of the same name by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. A long line up of actors, the producer and the director and Chimamanda herself were there for the Q&A. It is a great film and is coming to the UK in February or thereabouts, watch out for it, interestingly this was in the Dare section, it is also a love story of tremendous tenderness and penetrating pain; and a nationalistic hymn to Biafra’s disastrous struggle to create a separate state.