I’m honestly not sure what to make of Frauensee. It was an interesting movie, well-acted, with some nicely-explored characters and gorgeous shots of the German countryside. But there was no real plot, no resolution to the personal drama or even to the one minor side plotline. It left me feeling vaguely frustrated.
Maybe I’m approaching it from the wrong perspective. My only previous exposure to German lesbian cinema is To Faro, the 2011 VQFF’s opening gala film, and it was similar in a lot of ways: big focus on atmosphere, minimal plot that left lots of room for emotional drama but without any real character growth, and a very open-ended conclusion that wasn’t so much a dénouement as just an ending, and which left a bittersweet aftertaste. So maybe this is typical of the genre?
Rosa is a warden looking over a lake in the country, setting traps and watching for poachers. Her lover Kirsten is a high-powered architect from the big city who owns and fully renovated a house by the lake, which she comes down to on the weekend to relax. Though half the time, she’s still running her business over the phone anyway. I think in her eyes Rosa is just a part of her weekend getaways: she enjoys them but has no interest in making it full-time. Kirsten does care about Rosa but doesn’t know anything about her world, and doesn’t particularly care to.
Case in point: the one side plot involves some mysterious poacher stealing fish from Rosa’s traps. If she catches him, Rosa would have every right to ban him from the lake, but Kirsten advises her to talk with him, get his side of the story, maybe find some middle ground that could keep both of them happy. Not only does this come of as really condescending, it just reflects how out of touch Kirsten is: I’m sure in the big city it’s all about compromise and you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours, but in the country, it’s not okay to steal from people and damage their property.
On the weekend’s first day, Rosa catches two young college students, Evi and Olivia, stealing from her trap (because they forgot to bring enough food) and setting camp on an island that’s a nature preserve (against Rosa’s explicit instructions). Instead of throwing the book at them, Rosa joins them and then invites them back to Kirsten’s house for dinner, then allows them to stay for a few days. Evi starts to hit on Rosa almost continually whenever she thinks they’re alone, and while Rosa is kind of annoyed, she isn’t exactly saying no either. Olivia isn’t thrilled either, though she’s learned to put up with Evi’s shameless flirting.
All of their tensions and frustrations come to a boil a couple days later during a booze- and pot-fueled party at the house, where everybody spills their guts to everybody else. Nothing actually changes, though, and I don’t know if anybody has learned anything. It was all revelations that the audience and most of the characters knew anyway, the only difference is that it’s all in the open.
The last scene shows Rosa leaving for work at dawn as usual, the three other women still sleeping. But where is Rosa really headed? Is she running away from all these new revelations? Is she finally leaving Kirsten and heading off into the sunrise of a brand new life? Or doggedly going back to work just to go through this same crap over and over?
So yes, like I said, an interesting film. It didn’t really speak to me, but I did quite enjoy it, not least because of the gorgeous shots of the lake—the huge sky, the rippling water, the surrounding woods, the wind in the reeds—and the glimpse of quiet German rural life. I’m not sure if it was the best choice for a closing gala film—the last two were definitely more upbeat—but hey: a little moodiness and introspection never hurt anybody.