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Die Frau des Polizisten / The Police Officer's Wife

The Police Officer's Wife draws our attention to the places in our society we dare not look

JennBakken JennBakken The Seville European Film Festival awarded Alexandra Finder Best Actress for her role in The Police Officer's Wife (2013) a film by Philip Groning. Groning's art house filmmaking style may seem superficially simple if this is your first encounter with his style, but the accolades (Best Actress - Seville European Film Festival, Special Jury Prize - Venice Film Festival, and a nomination for the Golden Lion - Venice Film Festival) are fitting in this film that takes a harsh look at life where innocence is pitted against dark violence in one's own home.

Christine and Uwe Perkinger - The Police Officer's Wife
Christine and Uwe Perkinger - The Police Officer's Wife

Finder's role is one of calm realism. She plays a mother who is searching for meaning, affection, and an innocence of her own. In one touching scene she discovers the simple joy of making music on the window pane while trying to brush off an ant which she discovers is on the outside looking in. This is a scene of heartfelt joy, discovery, and passion. Her life has robbed her of all joy save for the love and curiosity of her young daughter, Clara. It is a bond that cannot be broken, and a love that she will stop at nothing to protect. At all costs, Christine (Finder's character) will protect the love of innocence embodied in her child.

However, as is usually the case with art house cinema, there is a depth that must be mined in order to find the buried treasure. In The Police Officer's Wife, the hidden treasure is deeply buried. Its characters resonate the harshness of the slice of life from which they have been carved. The fourth wall has been shattered, and the actors brilliantly plead with the audience to help them end their suffering through direct eye contact while singing to the camera in juxtaposition to the violent reality they are portraying. It is fitting that Finder was awarded Best Actress for her role as Christine, for we walk with her every step of the way, and despite the absence of the fourth wall, one simply cannot deny wanting to reach into the screen and save her from what her life has become.

Looking up, The Police Officer's Wife
Looking up, The Police Officer's Wife

We know that The Police Officer's Wife is not a true slice of reality, but life is so entrenched in this film that we feel as though we are living out the scenes before us. Life is cruel, middle classes suffer through the monotony of their daily routines, and so often we are living a life that separates us from the one we are supposed to be living. Christine has the deep binding love of her daughter Clara whom she effortlessly teaches to love life and to never stop imagining all the possibilities of which she can conceive. Their love is deep, it is real, and it is the purest innocence throughout the whole film, yet Christine yearns for the seemingly lost love of her husband. Despite his brutality, betrayal, and belittling, she wants nothing more than to renew the bond they once shared.

David Zimmerschied's portrayal of Uwe Perkinger (the police officer) is so vivid that we forget that he is not the focal point of the film. As the title suggests, this isn't about him. it never was. This one simple fact is the epitome of his life. His job, the hours he must keep, and his forced absence have made him an unwitting bystander in the life that he is supposed to be living. His frustration grows beyond the breaking point as he realizes that no matter what, he will never have anything close to the bond that Christine and Clara share. He is forced to live his life in stolen moments around the dinner table where he learns about Clara's daily adventures. In this way, the more he tries to connect the more distant he becomes, and soon the only connection that is real is one of bitterness, brutality, and betrayal. It drives a wedge between father and daughter, husband and wife. He shouts that all is okay, that Christine is okay, that life is okay, but he knows that it has become anything but okay, and he is powerless to change it in any meaningful way.

Alexandra Finder in The Police Officer's Wife
Alexandra Finder in The Police Officer's Wife

While this slice of life portrayal of the cold realities of daily existence seeks to draw us into its midst, it becomes all too painfully real. Audience members may feel trapped in this melancholy, horrific drama that is purposefully and methodically divided into chapters in an effort to spare us from that pain this film inflicts. It is clear that The Police Officer's Wife is a film wrought with a difficult narrative and a painstaking purpose. If one ever wondered what their life would look like on the big screen, this is it. Daily struggles to survive are paired with a desire for freedom, a need for connection, and a passion for preserving the innocence of our youth. However, it is understandably impossible to cut life in retrospect down to manageable bits, but at nearly a full three hours, audiences are left with a sense of grief. Mourning the loss of time that cannot be reclaimed, it is difficult if not impossible to even contemplate how or where one would make the decision to leave the proverbial scenes on the cutting room floor, but maybe that is what lies within the film's heart. We must learn to live with the demons in our midst in order to enjoy the tender moments that life has to offer.

The Police Officer's Wife English trailer, Die Frau des Polizisten

Groning's work to date, shows a growth pattern of masterfully subjecting audiences to the notion that life isn't always better in the movies. He has found a way to make life's journey as it really is play out before our very eyes. It draws our attention to the places in our society we dare not look. The Police Officer's Wife forces us to see that there is more to our neighbor and their situation than what we see when we walk our dog. The neighbor may be crying for help, but unless we open our eyes, we will never see the pain that lies behind the masks we wear.

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