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    La Fine del Mare – Human Traffic Kammerspiel

    By Ron Holloway | August 25, 2008

    Born in New York, raised in Surinam and the United States, at home in Berlin and Europe, Nora Hoppe first attracted attention as an independent filmmaker when in St. Petersburg she directed the short Brief Gardens (Germany/Russia, 1994), an elegy to her grandmother realized with Russian director Alexander Sokurov’s production company. Her second feature film, La Fine del Mare (The End of the Sea) (Germany/France/Italy, 2007), confirmed her status as a genuine auteur to keep an eye on.

    Nora Hoppe’s debut feature film was the remarkably aesthetic The Crossing (Germany/Netherlands, 1999), the chronicle of a stranger’s visit to a lonely, bitter old man in a rundown pension. Gradually, as the story unfolds, we discover that the visitor is anything but a stranger, for he knows all about the old man’s past, particularly about a tramatic experience in his native Afghanistan some twenty years ago that he has repressed all these years. Thus, the encounter takes on the character of a morality play, as though an angel of death was calling upon the recluse for a final reckoning on his judgment day.

    Now, Nora Hoppe has assured her status as a talented director with a second feature, The End of the Sea, shot at an abandoned harbor in Trieste. Again, the setting features a rundown cafe that’s regularly visited by a lonely, destitute Serb seaman (veteran Serb actor Miki Manojlovic), whose meagre income as a smuggler is set aside to purchase a piece of land in Hercegovina. One day, his world gets turned upside-down when the local mafia boss dumps on his boat a crate containing a young woman refugee (Bulgarian actress Diana Dobreva) presumably from Iran. The ante has now been gone up from smalltime smuggling to human trafficking.

    A spellbinding tale of doom set in a flea-bitten cafe and shabby flat, The End of the Sea unspools like a kammerspiel with scarcely a word of meaningful spoken dialogue, save when a blind chessplayer on a cafe table signals his next move after surveying in his mind the right maneuver. Instead, the narrative line is supported by its atmospheric depth, striking near black-and-white cinematography by ace Lithuanian cameraman Rimvydas Leipus (known for his collaboration with Sharunas Bartas), and a lightly coated undertone of allusive music scored by renown Iranian composer Peyman Yazdanian (known for scoring films by Abbas Kiarostami). Indeed, La fine del mare is one of those genuine auteur films you won’t easily forget and want to see again for its subtle, universally aesthetic impact.

    – Ron Holloway

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