Delicate, thoughtful, and evocative, writer-director Anatol Schuster’s Air (Luft) puts great care and attention towards visual storytelling, and the result is a beautiful piece of filmmaking.
From the opening scenes, audiences will feel as if they’ve been pulled into a story at the midpoint. Admittedly this may be disorienting at first, but Schuster and co-writer Britta Schwem’s method of storytelling proves to be a great asset to the film. Manja (played by Paula Hüttisch) is a shy wallflower of a girl who appears to keep to herself. During a quiet walk in the woods she quite literally runs into Louk (Lara Feith), a bold and rebellious spirit whose personality rests at the opposite end of the spectrum from Manja. Naturally, dear Manja is instantly attracted to this unique and mystical creature.
Following their encounter, Manja decides to return home, but discovers Louk has dropped her hat. She puts it on, seemingly to see what it’s like to be a different person, if only for a moment. Manja’s home life is mildly turbulent, leaving her stuck somewhere between teenage hormones and her refreshingly old school and aging grandmother. The demure Manja appears to internalize her feelings, drawing a sharp contrast to the bold and outgoing Louk.
As the school year progresses, Manja finds herself inspired and emboldened by Louk’s behavior, prompting her to come out of her shell and live with far less fear in her life. Louk, while aware of Manja, doesn’t really take notice at first, causing Manja to step even further out of her comfort zone. Manja’s risk eventually does pay off, as a relationship with Louk does finally come to life, even if rooted in mental illness and grief. Their love for one another culminates in a powerful, yet silent, scene where visual cues bear the storytelling yolk.
Cinematographer Julian Krubasik is an unsung hero of this film, remarkably delivering captivating images at every turn. Using a plethora of tightly cropped shots and a somber color palette, the audience truly feels the intimacy of each scene. At times it even feels as though we are transported into Manja’s mind to catch a glimpse of what our heroine is thinking and feeling, even when no dialogue is leading us there.
Visually stunning and evocative, Air (Luft) is not your typical angst-riddled teenage love drama. It is, however, a compelling story of love, vulnerability, and strength where two young women who appear to have little in common discover in each other refuge and protection from discomfort and distress.