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The Music Of Pain And Freedom: A German Film

Team AI 24th Apr 2020

In this time of lockdown, if you are wondering what to watch next, then we recommend this sensitive and fiery German drama film, ‘4 Minutes’ on Netflix, where music and pain create a symphony of triumph like no other.

A German drama film directed by Chris Kraus, ‘4 Minutes’ (Vier Minuten) produced by Alexandra Kordes and Meike Kordes, begins with a rather harrowing scene of an inmate who hangs herself in her cell, and Jenny, her fellow inmate and budding pianist, takes a pack of cigarettes out of the other’s pocket to smoke. And, thus, the stage is set.

Still from the film Four Minutes (German: Vier Minuten), 2006 by Chris Kraus. Image_1

Still from the film Four Minutes (German: Vier Minuten), 2006 by Chris Kraus.

The crux of the film rests on Jenny who is refused lessons by Ms. Krueger – an aging pianist who helps inmates cope by teaching them how to play the piano. The resulting rage causes Jenny to nearly murder a guard, and the subsequent shot of a moth that struggles to fly against the piano’s top juxtaposed to the screams of the guard is truly genius. The sheer violence set against the madness of the music that ensues after the warden is silenced and Jenny lets her fingers fly over the keys is something to behold. We are exposed to an imaginary fire that is both visible and invisible.

Still from the film Four Minutes (German: Vier Minuten), 2006 by Chris Kraus. Image_2

Still from the film Four Minutes (German: Vier Minuten), 2006 by Chris Kraus.

Eventually, we see the relationship between the student and teacher grow –Jenny shows great promise, and is entered to compete in an under-21 piano competition. Jealous of this prospect and angry at his attacker, the recovered warden unfortunately arranges for Jenny’s inmates to burn her hands; which results in her defending herself quite violently. The visit to the hospital shows Ms. Kreuger sitting quite sorrowfully with her student by her side, feeling utterly powerless. We are given momentary glimpses into Ms. Krueger’s life, where she once shared a relationship with another woman who turned out to be a communist during the Nazi era. As anger courses through both characters, we see Jenny’s rage transfused into her teacher, as she tells her that she had no right to trample all over someone’s narrative, as much as she had no right to trample over her own. ‘We all have a job to do, damn it...yours, is as clear as bright day!’

Still from the film Four Minutes (German: Vier Minuten), 2006 by Chris Kraus.  Image_3

Still from the film Four Minutes (German: Vier Minuten), 2006 by Chris Kraus.

All notions of who the protagonist and the antagonist are is thrown to the wind, as we are finally drawn to the spectacle of the stage and how Jenny creates sheer magic through her calloused hands. No longer does she feel the agony in her mind, but weaves her trauma with defiance into her notes. And yet, it is so difficult to prise apart such a deliciously complex moment as Jenny finishes her piece, and a curtain of silence lingers over everyone, before it tears itself apart with a standing ovation.

Still from the film Four Minutes (German: Vier Minuten), 2006 by Chris Kraus.  Image_4

Still from the film Four Minutes (German: Vier Minuten), 2006 by Chris Kraus.

Ms Krueger looks to her student, and Jenny grins and curtsy’s perfectly, as though to finally accept the chaos and fire of her past, and the discipline that freed her soul. 

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