“Coming of age” is a demure, blushing phrase and so fairly unsuited to the fats lips and cracked foreheads of Melanie Waelde’s visceral, exposed-nerve debut. And but, loosely talking, it’s what “Bare Animals” tracks: a brief, painful, hesitant section within the lives of 5 wild youngsters dwelling largely with out grownup supervision. In a provincial nowhere, geographically close to Berlin however spiritually half a galaxy away, the rituals which have developed amongst this little wolfpack are so incomprehensible to outsiders as to make them appear to be aliens, giving Waelde’s unmistakably private movie the texture of a very bruising work of vaguely dystopian ethnography.
Caged into the sq. frames of Fion Mutert’s punchy, hotheaded camerawork, the main target of the movie, which is much stronger in its charismatic, contradictory characterizations than in plot, is Katja (Marie Tragousti). She is a troubled younger girl whose most important outlet, as she faces down the gun barrel of the top of highschool and the imminence of change, is jiu-jitsu, which she each practices and teaches, alongside her beefy pal Sascha (Sammy Scheuritzel). They appear at first to be a pair, and one through which we initially worry for Katja, when a minor argument results in Sascha slamming her head right into a financial institution of lockers. However when the nurse who patches her up pushes a leaflet about home abuse into her hand, Katja can barely disguise her hilarity. Later, we are going to perceive why: All of her interactions with Sascha are characterised by bodily violence, often instigated by Katja herself.
By that stage, we’ve already met the remainder of her tribe of misfits. There’s fairly Laila (Luna Schaller), who hangs with this crew partly to flee a dysfunctional relationship along with her manipulative mom; there’s the cocky however comparatively well-adjusted Schöller (Paul Michael Stiehler); and there’s Benni (Michelangelo Fortuzzi), the movie’s would-be Byron, a dyspeptic depressive who seems to don’t have any parental affect in any respect, and in whose condo the gang are likely to congregate. It’s partly to maintain watch over Benni, as essentially the most fragile of the group — if not essentially essentially the most screwed up — but in addition it’s the one place they’ll run in accordance with their very own arcane guidelines, typically falling asleep on high of each other, bathing collectively and even doing what in different circles is likely to be known as flirting. It’s simply that right here, they’re all so hopelessly entwined with each other’s secrets and techniques and traumas, it’s like an unstated secret language between them, and so the probabilities of even essentially the most suggestive of exchanges resulting in something as simple as a romantic relationship are slim.
Episodes unfurl one after the opposite. Katja’s fraught house life is briefly sketched out, leaving us to deduce some type of abuse or scarring incident. Schöller hits on Katja, though he’s quasi-officially with Laila. This second does give us some concept of Katja’s angle to intercourse (spoiler: it’s not uncomplicated), and simply how a lot the physicality of jiu-jitsu and the unusual rutting wrestling matches she has with Sascha are a strategy to channel the onrush of hormonal maturity into what’s, for her, an emotionally safer, if actually bloodier avenue. On this coming-of-age, age is coming for Katja, and just like the wild animal she is, she is backed right into a nook, hackles raised, fangs bared, in search of the tiniest alternative for escape.
Benni has a breakdown, which appears to mark a type of pure endpoint for this tight-knit gang’s comforting if deeply unhealthy co-dependency. However Waelde’s screenplay fails to totally capitalize on that dramatic potential, and so it turns into simply one other kink within the strains of loyalty and interdependence which have been so tangled from the outset, that from an onlooker’s perspective, little materially adjustments. This may make “Bare Animals” a irritating watch even at a slender 83 minutes. However there’s additionally an intimate, improvisational authenticity to the performances and to the chemistry between the younger forged that creates its personal staticky fascination. Tragousti particularly is spectacular, and so satisfied of her paradoxical, psychologically incomprehensible character’s actuality, she makes us consider in Katja too, although her conduct offers us little consistency to cling to.
In an analogous means, the movie convinces us of the arrival of an excitingly uncompromised, offbeat expertise in Waelde, whereas by no means wholly coalescing right into a satisfying narrative. Relatively like Katja’s beloved sport, “Bare Animals” performs as a sequence of scuffles which might be made up of holds and pins and locks: They require immense talent and power, and for each muscle to vibrate on the very restrict of its capability, each sinew to sing with stress, but from the surface it may possibly look loads like inertia.