Above Us Only Sky: grief encounter

A woman’s struggle to cope with the aftermath of a tragedy and the associated secrets that start to come into the open form the basis of Above Us Only Sky, directed and written by Jan Schomburg. Sandra Hüller plays Martha, the wife of a successful academic who has just been awarded a placement in a distant city, and their life together seems on the surface to be untroubled and rewarding. One day however Martha receives an unexpected visit from the police and her comfortable existence is turned upside down. After a testing period punctuated by some traumatic revelations she attempts to rebuild her connections with the world by forging a perumptory new relationship, but the chances of this leading to happiness and stability don’t appear to be too great.

Above Us Only Sky is shot in a chiefly naturalistic style, though there are a few directorial flourishes apparent, both in the dreamy, gauze-like filtering effect that’s occasionally used and in the manipulation of the soundtrack, which often drops away at key moments, to be replaced by a haunting score. The first half of the film is highly effective at conveying the sudden and complete dislocation that the main character is put through, but personally I found that the later sections dealing with the new character Alexander considerably less compelling (though to be fair, this may be because I found myself taking violent exception to the actor’s facial hair. I am nothing if not objective) and I ended up with my considerable sympathy for Martha pretty much dissipated. This may well have been the director’s intention, but it felt like a real letdown. Still, the film is undoubtedly well-made, and very affecting for much of its running time. There are certainly worse ways I can imagine of spending 88 minutes.

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