Posted by: fudgie99 | June 9, 2009

Four Minutes

vierminuten3These are the two opening scenes of Four Minutes:

In one, a prisoner awakes, to find her roommate has hung herself. Unfazed, she takes her cigarettes out of the dead girl’s pocket, lights one, then signals the guards. In the other a wizened old lady is asleep with her head leaning against the window of a pickup truck with rock music blaring in the backround. She’s accompanied by two burly, tatooed ex cons hauling a piano. She wakes up and changes the channel to classical music.

That was enough to draw me in to this fascinating German movie about the relationship between a piano teacher, Mrs. Kruger, who has been working at the prison since World War II, and Jenny von Loeben, a prisoner in for murder by decapitation and dismemberment of a man.

It’s even more impressive how I was drawn in, because they are rather both unlikable.  Mrs. Kruger is completely unemotional, refusing Jenny lessons because she smells. Jenny follows this up by beating a guard to a pulp and swearing like a sailor, but getting to the piano long enough to show her talent.

There is to be a contest for pianists under 21 and Mrs. Kruger wants to work with Jenny to compete. This is where both women’s pasts come in. Jenny was a competitive pianist until her adoptive father started raping her and she gave it up in pursuit of unsavory characters of her own choosing. Mrs. Kruger keeps having flashbacks of her youth with a beautiful young women, who it soon becomes clear was a communist arrested by the nazis, that she was forced to deny to maintain her freedom and her life. These events have left both women emotional shells of their former selves, and they struggle to be civil to each other.

As Mrs. Kruger learns more of Jenny’s crime, it’s association to the loss of her lover leads her to stop lessons. Enter the wealthy adoptive (and alcoholic appearing) father, who apparently is following Jenny from afar, getting information from various guards by bribery. He succeeds in also bribing Mrs. Kruger by digging up her file from 1945, clearly relating her lesbian relationship with a communist.

The wry wit of the entire cast surprised me, and made the movie about a serious subject quite funny.  For example, when Jenny shows up for the first round of the competition, master’s trained pianists are fretting over their credentials. When the organizer asks her for her credentials, she says, “I’m a killer.” The woman just carries right on, “Put it down, dear, you never know what they might find useful.”

In learning both women’s back stories (and each one learning the other’s) you develop real empathy for their detachment and struggle to connect with others. The ending gets a bit surreal but by that point you don’t care, you’re just happy the characters are striving for personal expression and connection. I highly recommend this movie. It was different, funny, and engaging.                                                         Vier_Minuten24 stars- call in the U-haul

Favorite lines:

“What will rule #2 make me eat?”

“Rule #3: you smell”

“If Beethoven wrote an opera for Cinderella it would result in what cheese? Mozzarella.

“I know you’re a stupid whore.”

                                                                                                                                     “No, I’m a stupid lesbian.”



  1. Did you see The Piano Teacher with Isabelle Huppert? That movie made me incredibly uncomfortable and unnerved for days; something about your review here reminded me of it.

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