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Rick McGrath [Celluloid 05.07.12] Germany drama

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This movie is called Reported Missing, but there’s hardly anything missing from the ideas borrowed by writers Jan Speckenbach (who also directed) and Melanie Rohde to flesh out this ultimately unsatisfying story. It’s a quest. A mystery. Drama. It has Ballardian and Kafkian themes. Moments of Star Trek. And a big dollop of owesies to that 1968 generational classic, Wild In The Streets.

Overall, Reported Missing is a psycho-sociological story in which one man’s search for his missing daughter is inversely reflected in the activities of society at large. The story naturally seems to divide itself into three parts, and I’m sad to say the beginning and end are in turn boring and inexplicable, but the middle is almost worth the price of admission — a fantastic trip down obsession avenue, a truly fascinating bit of frustrating madness which reveals not only the mind of the protagonist (Lothar — a nuclear reactor safety inspector — just like Homer Simpson), but the somehow familiar crux of the story — kids abandon adults — updated to modern Germany. In essence, everyone in this story is missing, but they don’t care a damn about the people reporting them… displaced affections all ‘round. The basic yarn is pretty simple: Lothar hasn’t seen his estranged wife & daughter for 15 years and one day she calls to say the kid, Martha, has disappeared. He’s in a relationship, but that soon falls away as he launches into what seems to be a guilt-driven quest to track down this, for him, unknown girl. As his obsession deepens he uncovers troubling information: kids all over are simply vanishing.

Lothar’s cleverness and stupidity in unraveling the Mystery of the Missing finish off this sort of odd pre-pre-apocalyptic story, with perhaps a tad too much political commentary — in actuality this is a kind of pre-teen fairy tale, complete with baby carriages full of provisions, but seen through the eyes of a man driven by unknown forces. Unfortunately, by the time Reported Missing ends the causes are ignored and we’re left with a cluster of cheesy effects, most open-ended. We might have been hit with an axe, but instead we’re poked with baby spoons. The best part of the story is Lothar’s deliciously self-centered psychological state. His descent into delusion is preceded by acts of desperation, physical punishment, and finally a kind of pitiful hopelessness that ends with the same abandoned landscape shots used in the film’s beginning. It’s the revolving door theory of audiences, but no matter how many times you take that loop the ending never comes.

Reported Missing spends most of its time with the camera on André Hennicke, who plays Lothar. He’s a rather unusual lead — a rather greasy, goateed, rat-faced character who seems almost confused about what his obsession really means — he’s hunting his past in some vain attempt to atone for it? Hard to tell. Hennicke is a competent actor, but Luzie Ahrens, who plays Lou, a neighbor’s daughter Lothar befriends, is sadly wooden in her scenes which, unfortunately, complete the story’s sorry denouement.

Overall, I’d say Reported Missing has a great premise, but sadly understated execution. You might have fun counting off the cultural references, and the middle part is consuming, but overall this movie is like its unstated ironic joke: the missing people don’t know they’re missing. This is Fest Fare, and what ultimately might be reported missing is an audience.

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quietearth (9 years ago) Reply

I loved this film. It's a slow burner and there's an apocalyptic current beneath the whole thing. If you like slow enigmatic dramas, highly recommended.

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