We have a certain fascination with the lives of those who create profound and timeless prose and poetry. For those of us with no literary talent, the desire to understand what makes someone a great writer is a powerful one. Cinema has a similar love affair. Capote, An Angel at My Table, Shadowlands, Moliere, Quills, Iris and Bright Star are just a handful of the better biopics about people who have moved us with words. Heinrich von Kleist may not be familiar to many, but he was one of the most famous Northern German writers, whose career and life came to an abrupt end.
Set in 19th Century Berlin during the Romantic era, Heinrich Von Kleist (Christian Friedel) is a much-lauded wundekind who rails against the literary tide in his espousal of realism. Despairing of life and the human condition, he embraces his mortality by trying to persuade his cousin (Sandra Hüller) to join his in a suicide pact. When that plan fails, he turns his attentions to Henriette Vogel (Birte Schnoeink) , an ill and estranged young married woman.
Amour Fou is a slightly strange and contradictory film. Jessica Hausner has taken von Kleist’s doomed love and imbued it with a sense of comedy and oddity. The largely static camera gives the film a lack of intimacy, whilst the cast dance around in a linear menagerie. Whilst it’s somewhat of an oddity in terms of a biopic, Amour Fou is an interesting tale, told in a way which adds a sense of intrigue and absurdity.
Amour Fou is released on DVD by Arrow Films on Monday.