‘AEIOU – A Quick Alphabet of Love’ – Berlin Film Festival – Deadline
Not your usual date, sweetie. Anna Moth (Sophie Rois) an actress recognized by people on the street but seemingly unable to find work — “everyone knows she’s crazy,” says a fellow actor after she pulls herself out of her grip during the recording of a clearly cheap radio play – gets mugged in the street outside a fancy bar by a young man. He takes his purse while a brave young woman who sees the whole incident chases him and retrieves the bag, minus the wallet. Anna, meanwhile, finds her composure inside the bar, diva-style.
“No more than a child, really,” she says, describing the incident to Michel (Udo Kier), her owner, benefactor, confidant and perhaps number one fan. What was he wearing? “A leather jacket. I could feel it. Michel throws his head back, closes his eyes and sniffs theatrically. ‘The perfect combination,’ he sighs. And there it is, it’s all there: the mix of romantic fantasy, of camp and goosebumps that permeates Nicolette Krebitz’s Berlin Film Festival competition title AEIOU – A quick alphabet of love.
When Anna visits her doctor – another big fan, obvs – and he asks her to do some speech therapy training with a boy involved in a juvenile delinquent theater troupe, you just know who’s going to show up. Floppy bangs, weird glasses, the jacket. Anna recognizes him and is duly exhilarated, but it takes a visit to his apartment before he clicks. He’s pissed, but not as worried as he is, that her husband hanged himself in the apartment. As he tries to chase his ghost out of the hall closet, their earlier encounter fades. There’s so much more to come that’s so much wackier.
There doesn’t seem to be any anomaly in the young man’s speech that would merit medical intervention but, as a disembodied narrative voice will tell us, Adrian (Milan Herms) actually suffers from a more global handicap: life is his problem. He fails in college and in his third foster family. Anna is offered a good sum of money to train her to speak more clearly, pressing her back to make her breathe in her “A” sounds. The voiceover tells us that Adrian never felt loved. Well, that’s about to change.
Are Anna and Adrian getting to E? Not that we see; they are busy taking romantic intertwining walks in the park, having tiffs and romantic reunions. She makes him soup. He steals a fancy handbag from her. His skills as a petty thief come in especially handy when they spontaneously take a trip to the French Riviera, where he transports her naked through the streets of a midnight swim to their cheap but charming hotel. “They can’t resist each other anymore,” says the narrator, in case we didn’t get that. “They both come, first Anna, then Adrian, as it should be.”
Doubtful? Certainly. The love and lust between older women and younger men is having a moment; by Sophie Hyde Good luck to you Leo Grandealso about a woman in her sixties (Emma Thompson) who hires a younger sex worker, is also screened at the Berlinale, while controversy has erupted over the romantic friendship portrayed in Paul Thomas Anderson. Licorice Pizza.
With AEIOU, Krebitz crosses the line, but at this point we’re so far into the realm of absurdity that it barely makes sense to wonder the next morning about legality. Adrian has gone to the pastry shop to steal some breakfast; Anna smiled in her sleep, finally a happy woman. Crazy Love never looked crazier.