German Film Festival Review: The Audition presents a wavering narrative grounded by revelatory performances

If there’s one thing that’s concrete in the rather contradictory personality of The Audition‘s focal character – Nina Hoss‘s Anna – it’s that music is her only unwavering interest.

Scenes of her championing a young musical student – a mentality that soon graduates to near chastising – showcase her evident passion for the art of teaching music, demanding nothing less than perfection from talent she truly believes in.  But these scenes interspersed with moments of her unable to settle on a simple order off a restaurant menu, even going so far as to swap seats after ordering, play into her character’s general uncertainty, only further solidifying that her chosen profession is all she truly cares about.

It’s this professional approach that starts to disrupt her family life, and the lack of fear that writer/director Ina Weisse shows in framing such a narrative around a character such as Anna only further fuels the film’s intrigue.  Yet, at the same time, her self-destructive tendencies feel unsupported in a product that doesn’t investigate the facets of her personality as in-depth as they deserve.

The stability of her marriage seems to hinge on certain validity she’s craving from her understanding husband (Simon Abkarian), though she hardly returns such favours; an affair with a cellist (Jens Albinus) seems to purely be for sexual gratification when it suits her; and the relationship with her violin-playing son (Serafin Mishiev) is becoming more and more strained over her insistence of him maintaining interest in the instrument, a resentment that ultimately spools over in a rather violent matter regarding her teaching the promising Alexander (Ilja Monti).

The Audition‘s 100 minute running time manages its share of narrative heft, and that’s not including her questionable relationship with her seemingly abusive father (the transmitted behaviour of her father lends itself as the film’s strongest thematic undercurrent), and though it’s not essential for every plot strand to earn a resolution, the interesting insights all feel at a loose end that the somewhat shocking silence of the film’s conclusion is more disappointing than definitive.

Hoss’s performance is nothing short of revelatory as she unpacks Anna’s uncertainty and sternness in equal measure throughout, but The Audition as a whole doesn’t match the ovation she so clearly deserves.

TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The Audition is screening as part of this year’s German Film Festival, which is running across major Australian cities between May 25th and June 20th, 2021  For more information head to the official festival website.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.

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