Film Scouts Reviews

"Personne ne m'aime (Nobody Loves Me)"

by Karen Jaehne

December 22, 1995

Fanny Fink is single. And tired of life. She wants to tell us what it's like to fall in love: "You're back smoking, buying new lingerie. You sign up at a health club, keep beer in the fridge. Even trade your cat for a turtle, because he has allergies. Then...he's afraid of getting too close. 'I wouldn't fall in love with me if I were you.'" Meet Ms. Fink.

Dorris Dorrie, who surprised the world ten years ago with the first German comedy since Billy Wilder left Berlin, has made a serious film with several laughs. She directs Maria Schrader to play Fanny with the kind of pragmatic despair that leads to wearing black and accessorizing with death baubles yet doesn't keep her from going to work every day at the Cologne airport where she frisks female passengers. To expand her understanding of life, she takes evening courses in "Conscious Dying," in which the students must design and perform in their own funerals.

Fanny is a good German and a good neighbor. She is suspicious of the psychic who lives next door until she gets to know him and takes him up on the services his card promises: "Orfeo de Altamar: Psychic and Palm Reader." An Afro-German actor named Pierre Sanoussi-Bliss plays Orfeo with crying-game abandon, convincing us that he comprehends death better than any group grope.

Orfeo begins by teaching her to make the elevator work when it stalls-bounce from wall to wall until it rumbles back into order. It may freak out your fellow passengers, but the will to power will triumph over technology. (Now that's German!) When Fanny falls in love with the yuppie landlord Lothar (Michael von Au), it is Orfeo who must mediate and bring her back to her senses. Even if his own love life falls apart.

Certainly, Fanny's self-obsessed romance novelist of a mother is no help, especially getting the kind of reviews she's been getting from German critics! (A little jab at the caliber of criticism Dorrie herself has had over the last decade?)

"Nobody Loves Me" is about being an outsider. Fanny feels like one, dresses like one and tries to position herself outside the German mainstream, because the materialism of the society has throttled the life from the it. Certainly it is because the mainstream of central Europe looks so much like our own lifestyles that we can identify so easily with Fanny. Folks are just too caught up in protecting their tiny bit of condo turf and not seeing the Black Forest for the trees.

It is not surprising-indeed it is a cliche of art films-that the outsider permits you to see yourself more clearly. Orfeo (In Greek myth Orpheus failed to lead Eurydice out of Hades.) does lead Fanny to face reality, but he is the one who fades away from her neglect. Dorrie's movie is clearly not about getting someone to love you; it's about loving your neighbors.

"I am preoccupied," she says, "with the fact that Germans seem unable to be happy with what they have and are isolating their country from the rest of Europe. I believe that Multi-Culturalism is the only way forward in Germany. This alone can teach compassion, and I wanted to explore this in 'Nobody Loves Me.'"

By the time Fanny gets to the bottom of Orfeo's multi-culturalism, he's in a happier hunting ground. But he's left her more than a drawer of disappointed lingerie. His ultimate victory is something akin to that German practice called "inner exile," in which artists retreated into themselves in the face of indomitable political forces. He has taught Fanny to create a world she can live in. And have sympathy with the devil. Like a lover, he's never who you think he is.

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