THE FOREST FOR THE TREES
Bursting with idealism, Melanie Pröschle, a young teacher from the countryside, starts her first job at a high school in the city. Desperate to fulfil her hopes, Melanie intends to do everything the right way. Politely she introduces herself to her neighbours with homemade schnapps. At her first day of school she gives a very ambitious speech for her colleagues. She wants to be a "fresh breeze" to the school, but it is not easy to start a new life, as Melanie copes with loneliness, established teachers and ninth grade students.
Director and Cast
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Format: DVD (NTSC)
Encoding: Region 1
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, Letterboxed
Screen Format: 16x9 Widescreen (Anamorphic)
Sound: Dolby 2.0 Stereo
Closed Captioned: Yes
February 10, 2006
By Jamie Woolley
It's not hard to see why The Forest For The Trees has been such a success on the festival circuit. This tartly comic tale of teachers on the verge of a nervous breakdown is not only Maren Ade's marvellous first feature, it was her film school graduation piece. In following first-time teacher Melanie (Eva Löbau) and her disastrous attempts at forging both a new career and social life, Ade demonstrates more maturity and insight than many other, more experienced directors.
An outstanding Löbau plays Melanie as a social incompetent, her sterile modern apartment symbolic of her vacuous existence. She begins living life vicariously through new best friend Tina (Daniela Holtz) but with one accidental encounter too many, Melanie strays into borderline stalker territory. At the same time, she ignores advances from fellow teacher Thorsten (Jan Neumann), the one person who actually wants to stop her dissolving into a neurotic mess.
"RICH IN PATHOS"
Things at school are no better and Melanie's naïve ideas about being a breath of fresh air are quickly shattered when her unruly kids realise she has all the authority of a wet paper bag and events spiral out of her control. Yet despite being the kind of character you'd cross the street to avoid, Löbau generates enough sympathy to wish for a happy ending.
Ade's own script is sharp enough to ensure that nothing is wasted, oozing with that sick pit-of-the-stomach feeling that comes with being truly out of your depth and builds towards an enigmatic conclusion rich in pathos. For a first film, it's accomplished; for a college project, it's astonishing.
--JAmie Wooley/ BBC - Review
By Eddie Cockrell
Tapping in to primal fears of professional ineptitude and social rejection with an almost sadistic meticulousness, "The Forest for the Trees" is a precisely modulated first film about an idealistic young educator ostracized for her lack of teaching skills and civil graces. Equally adept at sidestepping genre expectations and creating an atmosphere of oddly bracing bleakness, this unheralded late-Toronto discovery will segue with ease to other discerning fests, and could transcend its sludgy vid palette to earn specialized arthouse dates and leafy ancillary.
Full of youthful idealism, 27-year-old Melanie Proeschle (Eva Loebau) leaves her rural flat and boyfriend to take a mid-year post teaching fifth- and ninth-graders in the southwestern German city of Karlsruhe. The school atmosphere is immediately intimidating, as her aloof colleagues are older, and dismissive of her more progressive yet disastrously discipline-free teaching techniques. The only teacher near her own tender age is the vaguely geeky Thorsten Rehm (Jan Neumann), who seems friendly but comes on too strong.
Things seem initially more promising at home, where Melanie sunnily greets her largely disinterested new neighbors with homemade schnapps before initiating a tentative friendship with the infinitely more worldly Tina Schaffner (Daniela Holtz), who lives across the way and seems to be involved in a tempestuous relationship.
The worse things get at school, the more Melanie begins to unconsciously overcompensate by inserting herself in Tina's life. At first friendly and tolerant, the neighbor soon grows openly hostile, prompting Melanie to succumb to the pressures of her life via a climactic act at once jarringly unexpected and gracefully ambivalent.
It becomes quite clear shortly into this quietly assured work that first-time director Maren Ade has no interest in exploring either the more lurid aspects of her protagonist's mental dissolution or any kind of genre-fueled revenge fantasy. Rather, the film deftly balances Melanie's substantial social shortcomings with initially sympathetic glimpses into her grief process. She eats lunch alone in an unused closet, and her initial attempts to befriend Tina are immediately recognizable to anyone who's ever tried to fend off loneliness.
In fact, it's difficult to say when exactly Melanie goes off the rails, and it is the fearless performance of Eva Loebau, who limned a role of similar emotional bravery in Iain Dilthey's 2001 graduation film "I'll Wait on You Hand and Foot," that charges the film with tension and unease. Holtz and Neumann contribute strong supporting perfs that buttress pic's emotional ambiguity.
Ade may have gained a more intimate approach to storytelling by using a DV Cam, but downside is an anemic, washed-out look; the 35mm blow-up on view at the Toronto fest helped enormously. Good use is made of the Grandaddy song "He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot," which lends the proceedings an air of sinister poignancy.
The daughter of two teachers, Ade shot on location in her Karlsruhe hometown with her mother's students playing Melanie's charges. After a year spent on the German fest circuit, pic will bow domestically in early 2005.
--Eddie Cockell/ Variety - Review
By Michael Wilmington
This disturbingly frank, compassionate debut film by writer-director Maren Ade features a very moving lead performance by actress Eva Loebau as Melanie, a well-meaning but socially maladroit young teacher whose professional and personal lives disintegrate around her. Despite all her best intentions and painful efforts, Melanie's 9th-grade students mock her attempts at a freer classroom, her colleagues (with the exception of one smitten young contemporary) are distant or disapproving, and her attempts at friendship with sullenly pretty neighbor Tina (Daniela Holtz) end in Tina treating her like dirt. Director Ade is the daughter of teachers, and she catches the academic atmosphere and rituals perceptively, using a documentary style with lots of actor improvisation. A prize-winner at Sundance and other fests, "Forest" is an affecting, very intelligent work, done with an eye for realism and a heart for the lonely, insulted and injured.
--Michael Wilmington/ Chicago Tribune - Review
Jeff in Seattle - Customer Review