THE SPIDERWEBHOUSE‘: Reviewed by Liv Bunting

Germany (90 mins, dir. Mara Eibl-Eibesfeldt). Premiering at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) through Next Gen.

For more information visit http://miff.com.au/program/next-gen/the-spiderwebhouse

Mara Eibl-Eibesfeldt takes the viewer on an ethereal journey into the mind of a child in The Spiderwebhouse (Germany, 2015). Even before his mother abandons him to “fight her demons”, Jonas (played by the young Ben Litwinschuh) is a figure of guidance to his younger brother and sister Nick (Lutz Simon Eilert) and Miechen (Helena Pieske). When the children’s mother leaves for a few days she tells Jonas he’s “the boss now. Just like an adult”. However, the days turn into weeks, and despite the children doing their best to “handle everything as if mum were here”, they begin to run out of money and food. Jonas encounters Felix Count of Gutersloh bought to life by Ludwig Trepte. Felix is a human manifestation of the children’s fears and fantasies. An unlikely friendship forms and the homeless cobweb inked man helps the children survive, encouraging Jonas to stay a child in a world pushing him to become an adult.

The performances of this small and intimate cast add multitudes of emotion to the heart wrenching film, further saddened by the knowledge that it’s a true story. However dark The Spiderwebhouse may delve, it also remains an uplifting tale. The sound used throughout the film is airy and melodic, with the combination of soft haunting piano and strings contributing to the children’s fairy-tale world. The black and white aesthetic creates a stark simplicity, drawing lines between the adult world and the child’s imagination. Jürgen Jürges uses the cinematography to create a childlike perspective, using intimate shots to capture the raw emotion and innocence in the film. The editing enhances the childlike viewpoint, lingering on little things such as a clattering saucepan lid or a crawling bug.

The Spiderwebhouse is an individual film that will surely stand among the MIFF Next Gen films – definitely one to see.


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