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Ben Austwick [Celluloid 05.12.11] Germany movie review scifi drama

Year: 2010
Director: Damir Lukacevic
Writers: Elia Barcela, Gabi Blauert, Damir Lukacevic
IMDB: link
Trailer: NA
Review by: Ben Austwick
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

[Editor's note: Marina also loved the film at VIFF]

One of the great things about Sci-Fi London is that it’s one of the few places you can see proper science fiction films. By this I don’t mean the special effects-laden space operas that have come to define the genre for some, but rather allegorical, politically driven satires reminiscent of its mid-twentieth century heyday; intelligent films with layers of meaning, exploring the present day by taking current issues into an exaggerated future. Transfer is one of those films.

In a future Germany, a wealthy, elderly couple decide to pay for a radical new technique to prolong their lives, by having their personalities transplanted into the bodies of two fit, young people in their twenties. The bodies’ original personalities are overpowered and lay dormant. The young couple, desperate economic refugees from Africa who need the money to feed their families, only have a few short hours of their lives to themselves while the host couple are asleep. But in this time, they fall in love with each other.

This is great story writing: a simple set-up that leads to all kinds of moral quandries, explored in subtle greys of right and wrong rather than the seemingly black and white exploitation of poor Africans by wealthy Europeans. The elderly couple, Hermann and Anna, are utterly devoted to each other and very much in love, leading an audience yet to be introduced to the Africans to root for them as they go through their transformation. It takes a while to warm to Sarah and Apolain, understandably bitter about their predicament at first; though this changes as they get to know Hermann and Anna, who communicate with them through a written diary and other clues left around the house.

Clever observations on the idle life of rich, white retirees are made as the elderly couple in their youthful black bodies mingle with their gobsmacked friends, a wonderful performance from Ulrich Voß as Hermann’s best friend Otto adding a touch of humour. Always warm in outlook, Transfer’s lack of cynicism and concentration on questions of companionship, love and mortality are part of its success. Indeed, as the plot becomes more complex towards the end and emotional subtleties inevitably take a back seat, It loses a little of its earlier power.

Overall though, Transfer is an intelligent, emotionally mature piece of science fiction with the sort of performances and production values that should ensure mainstream success. Whether a German language film circulating the genre festival ghetto will achieve this is another matter, but it’ll be a damning indictment of the film industry if it doesn't.

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John (11 years ago) Reply

Trailer is here:

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