Sunday, 22 July 2018

In The Aisles: NZIFF Review

In The Aisles: NZIFF Review


Set within the microcosm of a supermarket, German film In The Aisles (aka In Den Gangen) mixes social commentary with sentiment.

A young Joaquin Phoenix lookalike, Franz Rogoswki is Christian, a juvenile offender given a second chance with a stock job at the supermarket. Muted and generally silent, and detached, Christian's paired up with Bruno and begins to learn the ropes of working the night restocking job.
In The Aisles: NZIFF Review

However, when he sees Toni Erdmann's Sandra Huller's Marion (aka Miss Sweet Goods because of where she works), he falls instantly for her, finding his reason to try to want a better life for himself.

In Den Gangen has little in the way of plot that propels it along, or tension (aside from whether Christian will actually get his forklift licence), but what it does is present a picture of how society interacts when forced to do so.

Director Thomas Stuber draws together his cast to deliver some deadpan lines, and comments that amuse greatly early on. He has also an eye for the absurdity of this microcosm, as well as the beauty of smaller interactions.

The film opens with the Blue Danube before a carefully choreographed clutch of forklifts dance in and out of the aisles, each moving in time with the music and each moving like ballet dancers. It's a hypnotic start that finds beauty in the most mundane of worlds. Even some of Christian's early inactions in the aisles have the touches of silent comedy about them, as his learning curve begins.

But as the scope of the film widens out, and we glimpse a world outside of the supermarket, there's an ugliness of what lies beyond the walls. It's an intriguing touch that presents the outside as something less than savoury, and of how workers forced together create their own little universes with little or no eyes to what lies beyond.

The latter third of the film revels in a sombre tone and there's certainly a discord in reconciling some of the apparent gentle giant Christian's actions to the tender portrait that emerged earlier on. Disappointingly, Stuber has no interest in dealing with the moral issues, choosing to pursue his ideal to the end.

And certainly as In Den Gangen continues, there's a feeling the film's grown out past its short story elements, as its plies the camaraderie with elements of tenderness. And the stalking is troublesome at best, an almost betrayal of the sweet nature of those living on the peripherary of what's considered the norm.

Ultimately, the melancholy In The Aisles is an intriguing film, an examination of the social microcosm of the shift workers, and a small salutary piece extolling the virtues of daily inconsequential interactions.

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