“A Second Chance” (“Le deuxième commencement”)
It is not often that I see a film that immediately pulls me in and resonates with me. I should know by now that when I see the name Andre Schneider associated with a movie that I am in for a treat and here he brings us a film that bristles with reality as he presents a story that we can all identify with. Schneider not only wrote and directed this but he also stars and he should be very proud of himself.
Andre (Schneider) and Laurent (Laurent Delpit) were lovers for ten years and lived together in Paris. Things did not go so well towards the end and they separated and had no contact for three years. Andre returned to Berlin and tried to make a new life for himself even becoming involved with someone new. Then came a day that changed everything. He got a call from Laurent who wants to come to Germany to visit him and when he arrives neither man is sure what he is doing there. We see that the two men are still strongly attracted to each other and we learn this by listening to each man speak about himself as the film unwinds. They talk about their past relationship (to the camera and not to each other), about how they met each other and became involved and how they split apart. Laurent does not seem to remember everything but Andre knows even the smallest detail. We understand that the relationship ended because they did not share the same look at life but now, some three years later, they are still connected. In those three years each has matured and can now actually see himself sharing his life with the other. (We all know that old adage that you don’t realize how
Any of us who have ever been in a relationship that ended know that each person involved will see the end of it in a different way and that we see here when Andre and Laurent, separately, explain why their relationship ended. Andre is very serious and obviously still somewhat hurt while Laurent seems almost lackadaisical about it. However both men want and are willing to give it a second chance. Schneider and Delpit both turn in excellent performances and the way they relate to each other as they speak is just amazing. The supporting actors—Marc Hodapp as Gabriel (Andre’s new flame) and Hanna Schwab as Ariane, Andre’s neighbor are also excellent. The beautiful music (by Thorsten Stroheck) on the soundtrack is perfect and the cinematography makes us feel that we are in the same room with the characters.
Schneider really captures the reality of a relationship that ended; we see that in the way both men cautiously await meeting each other three years later. Andre tells Laurent that the tension is so high because toward the end of the love affair, they were not able to really speak to each other. Andre felt that Laurent did not see what they had as serious and he most certainly did not understand why Andre wanted to talk about it. We see in this the differences in culture between the two men—the French appear to be somewhat “laissez-faire” while Germans tend to analyze and consider all of the details. Andre certainly lost more than Laurent. He had moved to Paris, learned a different language and left his friends and family in Germany just so the two could be together.
When that phone call came from Laurent, Andre was a bit stymied yet we, the viewers, feel that something very important is about to happen. Both men sense the sexual undertone of the phone call and when they meet, they see that their feelings for each other are still very strong even though their break-up had been very painful. They actually are able to communicate for the first time.
There is another aspect to the film in that we see two people from different countries and cultures coming together in an attempt to build something with each other. Schneider chose to film this in the style of a documentary and the characters in the first part of the film talk to the camera instead of each other. We learn a great deal not only through what they say but through their body language as well. We are certainly aware of their different views of their relationship and the fact that Laurent thinks that they were together for seven years rather than ten says something very important about him.
When they do come together, we sense the tension between them all the while knowing that they both want each other but neither can make the first move. It is as if they are meeting for the first time after seeing each other somewhere and they are intent upon making good impressions but not certain what to do next. I found this to be charming and very realistic. I have always found it difficult to come face to face with someone with whom I shared my life after it was over so I found it easy to feel what each man felt.
You obviously have noticed that I have not written a word about sex here. The sex scenes in the movie are shown briefly and in a setting where we really just see the two characters. We see a black background, in fact, we see nothingness and I found that to be because we want to concentrate on the actors and read their faces. The sex scenes are in reality love scenes and all of us are aware of the difference between making love and having sex. Schneider’s technique is very effective here. He also plays down time and space because they did not matter to Laurent and Andre. We really only get a glimpse of an outside world twice and briefly—one is when Andre is with Gabriel and the other time when Ariane comes to visit. In the beginning of the film we do see Paris and Germany but when the two men come together, we see only them.
The movie itself is short, running only about 50 minutes but these are 50 powerful minutes and each of them is special and each minute in this film is brilliant. I feel honored that Schneider sent me his film even before it has had its official premier which will be on August 15 and from then on it will begin the festival circuit. I believe we will be hearing a great deal about it.