Time of Moulting

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Dark, oppressive, and ominous. A heavily atmospheric and harrowing portrait of the ways in which repressed family dynamics can influence and infect the lives of younger generations– not tangible, not namable, but inexorable.

In a small town in 1970s West Germany, Stephanie (played by a charming Zelda Espenschied as a young child, and a surly Miriam Schiweck “ten years later”) is raised by two parents who have no business having children. The mother (Freya Kreutzkam, never far from despair-induced collapse) suffers from an unspecified medical condition—one both mental and physical. The father makes it clear that he has no patience for his daughter.

Young Stephanie takes solace in exploring the mysteries hidden away in the increasingly untidy house, particularly the trunk full of her grandfather’s butcher’s equipment; older Stephanie takes far more sinister comfort in the tools found therein.

Throughout the film director Sabrina Mertens and cinematographer Jan Fabi use a static camera. There are no closeups, and characters are often not centered within the frame. Sometimes, they are obscured by a piece of furniture. It isn’t always clear what’s happening. The lighting is flat and naturalistic; there is so much darkness that it’s difficult to get a sense of place. The house feels like a labyrinth of “stuff” - there are piles of clothing, crockery, furniture and newspapers everywhere, even in the bathroom. As the film progresses, the piles grow larger, and there is less room for the family. The oppressive formalism lingers in the many shadows with a quietly sadistic grin.

57 vignettes adding up to a cryptic whole.

directed by: Sabrina Mertens
starring: Zelda Espenschied, Miriam Schiweck, Freya Kreutzkam, Bernd Wolf
2020 / 82 min / 1.78:1 / German DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0

Additional info:

  • Region A Blu-ray
  • New interview with writer/director Sabrina Mertens
  • New interview with co-star Freya Kreutzkam
  • Q&A at Nitehawk Cinema, Brooklyn, NY Summer 2023 with filmmaker Sabrina Mertens, actress Freya Kreutzkam, and Caryn Coleman of The Future Of Film Is Female
  • Over 20 minutes of Deleted Scenes and Behind The Scenes Footage
  • Gentle Moments - a short film starring Freya Kreutzkam by filmmaker Sabrina Mertens
  • US Trailer
  • New Essays by Samm Deighan, Stephanie Monohan, and Elizabeth Horkley
  • English subtitles