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Undine

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭   Read critic reviews

Germany, France

2020

1h 26m

Director Christian Petzold

Starring Paula Beer, Franz Rogowski, Maryam Zaree, Jacob Matschenz

Genre Drama, Fantasy, Romance

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Adapted from the classic German fairy tale of the same name, Undine is a woman who works as a lecturer on German urban development. When her boyfriend leaves her after cheating, she is destined to kill him and return to the water. However, upon meeting and falling in love with an industrial diver, she wrestles with her fate.

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WHAT ARE CRITICS SAYING?

75

The A.V. Club by A.A. Dowd

For all the minor creepiness Undine pulls from its inspiration (including some striking underwater shots), it also inherits a certain simplicity of plotting and one-note characterization. Yet I still wouldn’t hesitate for a second to recommend the film, because it’s been made with the superb economy of pacing, shot selection, and editing that’s become a Petzold specialty, nay a trademark.
67

IndieWire by Eric Kohn

Petzold remains a master of capturing frantic characters doomed by dark obsessions, and while Undine is certainly a minor work, it still shows evidence of a master’s hand.
80

Slashfilm by Hoai-Tran Bui

Its disquieting moments of magical realism paired with the all-consuming romance shared between Undine and Christoph — which feels as grand and tragic as the best cinematic love stories — add some warmth to Undine‘s chilly, cosmic exterior.
83

The Playlist by Jack King

Petzold’s unsettling film is awash with wonderful ambiguities and strives to challenge both its audience and filmmaking conventions. They’re incomparable and largely succeed through their independent nuances.
80

Screen Daily by Lee Marshall

Petzold’s lean, crisply-shot tale is a deft shape-changer, switching mood and register, interlacing romance with suspense and sudden jabs of humour.
60

The Guardian by Peter Bradshaw

It is possible to come away from the film less than convinced, but very impressed by the sheer force of Petzold’s film-making talent (recently so stunning in his drama Transit) but which has been here deployed for something which is a bit flimsy and silly.
60

Variety by Peter Debruge

There’s a stylistic and narrative elegance to Petzold’s approach, with its clean lensing and repeated use of a single piece of music (the rolling piano Adagio from Bach’s Concerto in D Minor, BWV 974), that suggests restraint, where a queer filmmaker might have propelled things into camp territory. In a way, it’s a shame that Undine stops short, since the material feels thin, and the statement as murky as the lake to which the camera ultimately returns.
75

The Film Stage by Rory O'Connor

In taking a centuries-old piece of mythology as its source material, Undine ultimately forgoes the inventiveness and sensuality of its first half by slipping into relatively bland predictability. And for a filmmaker who thrives on disregarding narrative conventions, it feels a fatal error. “Relatively” is the key here. This is still Petzold after all, if not peak Petzold.

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