Amour Fou

The struggle of German poet Heinrich von Kleist to arrange the perfect romantic suicide in 1811 becomes the stuff of icy black comedy in the ever-steady hands of writer-director Jessica Hausner (Lourdes). This 2014 feature unfolds largely from the perspective of Henriette Vogel, the aristocratic woman who joined Kleist in his mission; both consider life to be meaningless, but whereas his position seems like an artist’s pretense, hers seems grounded in lived experience. Hausner depicts the experience of upper-class women in pre-democratic Germany as utter tedium, a never-ending series of overcomplicated social conventions that allow for no spontaneity (let alone independent thought). The mise-en-scene is appropriately suffocating, marked by scrupulous production design and rigid, geometric framing, yet a savage, liberating wit lies beneath the surface; this often plays like a wicked parody of Eric Rohmer’s Kleist adaptation, The Marquise of O (1976). In German with subtitles.