Tuesday, April 05, 2016

KINO! NYC ’16: The Weather Inside

Dorothea Nagel is sort of like a cross between a character from a William Boyd novel and Ab Fab’s Patsy Stone. Technically, she is in a war-torn Middle Eastern country as a contractor for the UNHRC, but she prefers to stay in her hotel suite, drinking and doing copious amounts of cocaine with a local gigolo. Granted, it is quite problematic, but our UN dues have funded worse crimes than the reckless hedonism Nagel pursues in Isabelle Stever’s The Weather Inside (trailer here), which screens as the opening night selection of KINO! 2016, the German Film Festival in New York.

The border is closed and a cease-fire is supposedly imminent. For those who make a living off war, like Nagel and the foreign correspondents she disdains, business is at a standstill. The refugee camps are literally empty, which is terrible news for Nagel. To fulfill her pet project, she needs a teenage girl to award a European scholarship to, but unfortunately there do not seem to be any around. When she finds one, she does not waste her time doing a lot of due diligence. She prefers to imbibe with Alec, an aspiring kept man. However, the party comes to a screeching halt when Nagel’s scholarship student suspiciously disappears in the Paris airport.

Suddenly, Nagel’s new supervisor starts turning up at her suite, obviously unamused by the rock-star wreckage she finds therein. Management also starts demanding payment for the damages, putting a crimp on her finances. The shelling continues as well, not that she notices it anymore.

Nagel’s self-centered, self-indulgent, self-destructive, degenerate, narcissistic behavior would be laugh-out loud hilarious if it were not so likely true-to-life. There is a whole lot of NGO-UN sausage-making in Weather, with precious few sausages to show for all the expense. In all honesty, nobody will be appreciably worse off if Nagel is finally dismissed, which shouldn’t really surprise anyone.

Maria Furtwängler is absolutely an awesome spectacle bottoming out as Nagel. It is amazing how low she can go, but there is nothing shticky or effected about her performance. At times, she is almost a shuffling zombie-like shell of a person. Frankly, after the first thirty minutes, drugs, booze, and gigolos do not look so fun anymore.

Furtwängler is a force of nature in Weather, but Stever’s screenplay also totally nails the dysfunctional dynamics of bureaucratic organizations with unclear lines of supervision and responsibility. Perversely, Nagel would be dashed difficulty to get rid of, if her boss were so inclined, which indeed she is. The film is further enriched by numerous sly supporting turns, including Jim Broadbent as the slightly dodgy British ambassador and Barbara Bouchet playing an exaggeratedly clueless version of herself (hopefully). However, Mehmet Sözer’s Alec is so sleazy and exploitative, it is hard to fathom how any amount of drugs and alcohol could convince Nagel to assume the role of sugar mommy.

When it comes to trashing hotel rooms, Nagel and Alec are up there with Keith Richards. The jaw-dropping results are almost surreal. Although Nagel has plenty of hard-partying, work-slacking forerunners, including Hunter S. Thompson and Jayson Blair, Furtwängler and Stever raise it all to a level of existential purity. Highly recommended, The Weather Inside screens Thursday (4/7) at the Landmark Sunshine and Saturday (4/9) at the Cinema Village, as part of this year’s KINO!