Time of Moulting (Fellwechselzeit, 2020)
Director (and writer): Sabrina Mertens
Cast: Freya Kreutzkam, Miriam Schiweck, Zelda Espenschied, Bernd Wolf
Germany in the 1970s. Stephanie is a lively child, enjoys board games, playdates with neighbours, and holidays with the family. But her life takes an increasing turn towards isolation at the hands of her absent, temperamental father and a mentally unstable, often bedridden mother trapped in world of her own making. Something is quietly rotting away under the surface of familial life, and soon, the days turn into weeks, the weeks into months, the months into years… bringing aging, clutter, decay, but no future in sight. Strange rituals abound and the outhouse – where the family keeps their boxes of memories and secrets – exerts a growing influence. So Stephanie retreats into a dark world of barbaric fantasies… – Fantasia Festival
Time of Moulting is a German drama film set in a series of still shots and moving interactions between the family over the span of two different age of the main girl Stephanie. The first is where she is a little girl and dealing with her family especially the bond with her mother while it jumps forward to the second part when she is a teenager in the vicinity of her home every single day and the change the grows in her.
Time of Moulting feels a little like a abstract character study of Stephanie. At the same time, its a film that is very experimental and slow-paced and requires a lot of reading between the lines as well as being incredibly patient to decipher all the is going on. There isn’t a lot of dialogue or interaction and its all watching some odd moments go on with Stephanie and the little things that carry from one scene to the next while also having other scenes as she interacts with her father who doesn’t really care too much and sits around watching TV a lot and her mother who is mostly unwell. The film takes place in the one setting of their home and the outhouse surrounded with clutter and mess as well as their cat.
The impression of Time of Moulting truly depends on how much of the abstract story it wants to tell is delivered to the audience. For myself, there is merit in the way it chooses to film it from the color tone of each setting to the different items that Stephanie uses even up to her scenes from a child to teenager where she starts doing some rather questionable things and making some odd decisions. It all moves straight to an even more abstract ending that almost doesn’t answer of the oddities from before and wraps up with ambiguity. Suffice to say that I’m not the audience meant for this film as the merit of the moments doesn’t add up to be greater than the shock of the ending and what might have happened leaves too many questions still in the air. Perhaps its one meant for discussion and would be interesting to see how others interpret this film, for myself, its on the same level as a previous movie that I had reviewed called La Version Nouvelle (review) which has a lot of similarities in how the film is executed even if the story is a completely different one.
I’m sure that there are people with deeper power of connection that might appreciate this movie for what its trying to present. There are some shocking moments that Stephanie does and the ending does have that sudden moment of revelation at one part that is fun. The cat parts throughout also was very fun (but when are cats not fun to see in movies) but this movie is a gloomy slow-paced story focused on a young girl going through some personal and psychological change which matches to the title of Moulting but what is “Moulting”? I have a lot of different theories right now but nothing that feels like I have a concrete answer because its a little too ambiguous and abstract for my own preference. However, if you do like these sort of experimental movie experiences, this is one to check out.