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Till the End of the Night (Bis and Ende der Nacht)

Queer gangster drama intended as some sort of Neo-noir (with a femme fatale et al) collapses under the weight of its own blonde ambition - German potboiler closes the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival


Robert (Timocin Ziegler) is a gay undercover agent tasked with catching online drug lord Victor Arth (Michael Sideris). Blonde trans bombshell Leni (Thea Ehre) is released early from prison (where she was doing time for drug-related charges) in order to help Robert. She had previously worked with Victor as a sound engineer in a record label. Robert and ankle-monitor clad Leni pretend to be a loving couple in order to approach Victor during dance lessons. Victor is in a troubled relationship with Nic (Ioana Iacob), who also attends the strangely therapeutic classes. The two couples connect while rehearsing their moves.

The fake romance between Robert and Leni has a twist: Robert used to be in love with Leni before she transitioned, but feels repulsed by her new body. Victor becomes a genuine confidante, encouraging Robert to open his heart. Robert and Leni too attempt to fix Victor’s broken romance. Doubt and complicity prevail as the four duplicitous characters struggle with their inner emotions and allegiances. Should Robert allow his sentiments to prevail above his profession, and also above the rules of attraction, or should he simply stick to the original script conceived by the police? His chief (Rosa Enskat) is in constant control of his every move.

This vaguely interesting premise quickly gets lots in an incoherent plot, which does not allow characters the opportunity to fully blossom. The dialogues are so contrived that the delivery is inevitably stilted. The hurt-unhurt lines are used ad infinitum to no effective results, and nothing is rigorously tied up, in a story that goes around in circles and ends up collapsing under the weight of its own blonde ambition. This is a film without stamina, without humour, without swagger, and without any queer sensibility whatsoever. Buckle up for the most cringeworthy car sex scene you will ever see in your life, with a wacky device intended to signify separation and repulsion.

Nothing, absolutely nothing savages this film from the dark abysm of shoddy scripting. Darkness is indeed an intentional quality, from the film title to the sombre photography. The hard lighting, the abundant mirrors, the through-the-glass takes, and the distant camera flirt with Brechtian alienation and Neo-noir aesthetics (Leni is intended as the blonde femme fatale), however it works as neither. Even the technical wizardry feels redundant. Gratuitous fading and panning, and a strange opening sequence at an unusual shutter speed have no real narrative significance.

Upon leaving the cinema, I overheard someone compare Till The End of the Night to Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s In a Year with 13 Moons (1978), a complex trans drama equipped with a coherent script, and profoundly resonant to anyone who has ever experienced loss, rejection and self-doubt. The late German enfant terrible must be turning in his grave.

The only genuinely touching moments of Till the End of the Night are delivered by women, however they are offscreen. The German chanson and Schlager soundtrack, almost entirely sung by females, contains songs by Third-Reich-idol-turned-gay-diva Zarah Leander and husky-voiced über-star Hildegard Knef. I recommend that you just listen to them on Spotify instead.

Till the End of the Night was the closing film in the Official Competition of the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival. The selection of 19 films contained four German movies. Maybe one or two of them were a little redundant.

By Victor Fraga - 25-02-2023

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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