WANJA || 2015, Germany || Drama || Directed by – Carolina Hellsgaard / Written by – Carolina Hellsgaard / Produced by – Johanna Aust, Kathrin Krottenthaler, Kim Neumann, Jurgen Schaum, Sebastian Wolters / Music by – Steffen Scholz / Cinematography by – Kathril Krottenthaler / Editing by – Carolina Hellsgaard, Antonella Sarubbi / Production design – Nadin Meister, Lea Walloschke / Starring – Anne Ratte-Polle, Nele Trebs, Robert Viktor Minich / Running time: 87 mins.
Carolina Hellsgaard’s debut feature is a heck of a character study, driven by the exploration of the titular character Wanja, a former bank robber just out of jail and determined to start life anew – which means following her as she literally gets her hands dirty to dig herself out of a history of substance abuse and debauchery by doing minor jobs, especially through an internship at a stable.
Hellsgaard wastes little time with explanations or backstories, instead opting to immerse the viewer abruptly into Wanja‘s life. What develops hence is an intense escalating connection with the viewer on an emotional level, that is stark due to the approach that the director uses – unembellished and widely non-judgemental, with lots of still and lengthy shots and a strong focus on the character.
Wanja herself is unusual in terms of female representation in cinema. She is edgy and to some extent even masculine, a non conformist and all the while fascinating figure. Anne Ratte-Polle infuses great personality in her character. Despite her turn being quite restrained, it is also full of magnetism and charisma, a fact that shows a strong bond between actress and character, and makes it easier for the audience to understand her while retaining a little mystery. – 4/5