Herk Harvey’s classic 1962 low-budget horror flick Carnival of Souls is twisted into an odd, disquieting but ultimately unsatisfying thriller in the new effort from German filmmaker Christian Petzold. Nina Hoss stars as the titular Yella, who decides to flee her abusive husband in the countryside for a new life and job in the city. En route to the train station, she barely escapes death when her car plunges into a river, emerging from the water suffering from auditory hallucinations. Life in the city proves equally sensational.
After a job prospect tanks, Yella falls in with an executive in need of an assistant and the pair are a natural fit both in corporate manipulation and love. Final happiness is on the horizon, but Yella’s past creeps in at unexpected moments. Hoss is excellent in the lead. At once needy, intelligent, nave and manipulative, her Yella keeps audiences guessing as the layers of her personality peel. It’s no surprise that she won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival for the performance. The acting, however, doesn’t elevate the material. Penned by German filmmaker Harun Farocki, known for his documentations of the intricacies of corporate culture and working life, the script places too much emphasis on such interactions. The contract negotiations, head-games and power plays sit uneasy with the domestic flare-ups, creating an ebb and flow that eventually turns grinding. Luckily, Cinema Guild makes up for the shortcomings with fine DVD extras. Farocki’s doc Nothing Ventured presents corporate inside baseball more thrilling and engrossing than Yella ever could. Grade: C
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