Die Saat (The seed) – Berlinale 2021 review
Rainer toils by the sweat of his brow on a building site. His first job as site manager is his much-needed big break. Rising rents in the city have already forced him, his pregnant wife and 13-year-old daughter Doreen to move into a little house in the outskirts which needs renovating. At first, Doreen is not thrilled about her new life but then she meets her neighbour Mara, a girl whose parents are as rich as they are narrow-minded. Before long the new friends are playing with fire. Mara incites Doreen to play some nasty tricks and also entangles her in a theft. Meanwhile at work, Rainer is demoted and replaced by Jürgen, a cool pragmatist who, with only the investors’ interests in mind, ruthlessly steers the building project towards profit, oppressing the workers. When an older employee is about to be fired, Rainer stands up to his new superior and involuntarily becomes the leader of a burgeoning resistance.
In her interview for the online Berlinale of 2021 Mia Mariel Meyer noted that she and Hanno Koffler wanted to make a film to explain the rage of contemporary characters like the film’s protagonist. This rage is the sole product of the dehumanised by capitalism modern societies, where the struggle for justice and integrity becomes the ultimate test. Koffler, who also plays the protagonist Rainer, accurately portraits a hard working man who doesn’t get easily disappointed: he saw an opportunity in the gentrification chaos, to buy an old country house, work hard on it and build a new life there with his family. His hard work all these years, made him the project leader on the construction site, his peers respect him and he tries as much as possible to be flexible on his boss’ extraordinary demands, respecting his colleagues. These simple values are more and more often depicted lately in German films with the Toni Erdmann character coming to mind of his handling of his daughter’s company’s cruel lay offs. Rainer is stoically suffers his treatment from a human-eating machine of production and while he tries to finds solutions and be reasonable, he simply explodes when he sees his family falling physically and mentally apart.
Apart from Koffler, the newcomer Dora Zygouri as his daughter gives a worth mentioning performance in an excellent casting. The scene of both of them screaming that is the poster image as well is iconic of a whole generation that tries to find its way in a world that has changed for the worst and crashes them violently.
The parallels of the film with the late work of Ken Loach are in some extent inevitable. Rainer and the father from “Sorry we missed you” are in essence the same father figure, trying to provide for his family, putting his ego, will and integrity on the line. The problems are also current and important: gentrification, expendable oppressed workers and a life that turns more inhuman than it ever was in modern history. Meyer’s direction is also robust and mature. I really hope the film to be a seed, as it is its title, for more to come, as well as a seed for social change.
by Mia Maariel Meyer
Screenplay by Mia Maariel Meyer and Hanno Koffler
with Hanno Koffler, Dora Zygouri, Anna Blomeier, Andreas Döhler, Lilith Julie Johna
Country: Germany Year: 2021
Runtime: 100 minutes