Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
TIFF ’15: A Heavy Heart
Yorkers have a special awareness of the cruel realities of ALS, because of Lou
Gehrig. For example, in pre-bucket challenge days, the New York ALS chapter launched
successful give $4 drives, in honor of his retired number. Sadly, many champion
boxers have also succumbed to the neurological disorder. Herbert Stamm was a
serious contender during the dark days of the GDR, but he never raised a belt
over his head. He took as many blows as any champ, but his massively bad karma
will make matters even worse. Stamm faces a slow but inevitable final count in
Thomas Stuber’s A Heavy Heart (trailer here), which screens
during the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.
has always relied on his brawn. Even in his less than golden years, he scrapes
by gigging as loan collector and a bouncer. His only hope for the future is Eddy,
the talented young fighter he trains. He even feels a bit like a surrogate
father to the scrappy up-and-comer. Stamm has an actual genetically-verifiable
daughter, but they have not had a relationship for years. He did not
necessarily intend to abscond from Sandra’s life. Those prisons tattoos did not
happen spontaneously, after all. Stamm was just too embarrassed or too self-absorbed
to reconnect. He will soon regret that quite bitterly.
starts with a simple slip in the shower and a bit of muscle cramping, but it is
not long he gets the grimly fatal diagnosis. Suddenly, he cannot afford to push
away the emotionally needy Marlene, whom he had been transparently using for
drunken one night stands. He also dearly wishes to reconcile with Sandra, but
her resentment runs deep. Soon, Stamm will only find comradery and respect from
his old tattoo artist buddy, but their carousing becomes rather poignant.
yeah, good times at the movies. Regardless, if you want to see master class in
precise-controlled screen acting, Peter Kurth’s lead performance delivers with
quiet power. Kurth, who was rather charming as the down-to-earth but utterly
befuddled title character in Schmitke, put
considerable weight on his physical frame and his psyche. You can see both
slowly disintegrate over the course of the film. It is excellent work that
never gets too showy or Streepish. It is Kurth’s film, nearly to the exclusion
of all others, but Edin Hasanovic and Udo Kroschwald add real grit and
character as Eddy and Bodo the loan shark, respectively.
Stuber occasionally overindulges in unsubtle
manipulations, but the gravitas of Kurth’s performance helps muscle the film
through such sequences. It is an unusually unsentimental star turn in a film
that compulsively discourages false hope. Recommended as a fine vehicle for an
actor’s actor, A Heavy Heart screens
again tomorrow (9/14) and Friday (9/18), as part of this year’s TIFF.
Labels: German Cinema, TIFF '15