FestivalsFilmReview

What You See of Me – Raindance Film Festival 2024

David Cunningham

Writer and Director: Isabelle Caps-Kuhn

Gwen (Sina Genschel) and Adam (Julius Nitschkoff) are a mismatched couple. Gwen is studious and her work of such a calibre she is employed as a teaching assistant while awaiting a place at a prestigious university to continue her studies. Adam has just returned from a three-year ’journey of discovery’ and although he speaks vaguely of studying photography no-one thinks he is serious. Adam is the life and soul of the party while Gwen hides in the kitchen.

An acquaintance in a polygamous relationship explains to Gwen having an open relationship offers a different perspective on a partner – the chance to see them from someone else’s viewpoint. Possibly growing disenchanted with their relationship Gwen puts forward the idea to Adam but, while she may have a scientific curiosity, he sees the experiment more as permission to sleep around.

If Gwen had hoped an open relationship would bring out a mature attitude in Adam, she is disappointed – he remains as shallow and hedonistic as ever. But then writer and director Isabelle Caps-Kuhn does not seem interested in exploring formal polygamy, there is no indication the lovers taken by Gwen and Adam are aware they are already in a relationship. The attitude is more casual than formal, and Gwen is puzzled at her depth of feeling and unable to identify why Adam following her suggestion and taking a lover causes her to feel rejected.

What You See of Me is more a study of a character coming to terms with an unacknowledged emotional burden. While Gwen lectures students on how all life is subject to entropy – the descent of order into chaos- she is unable to emotionally accept the destructive impact of her suggestion upon her relationship. Sina Genschel gives a fine performance as someone struggling to recognise the origin of their conflicted feelings- lashing out and vandalising the scooter of Adam’s lover in confusion.

The film opens with a visual indication of the strained relationship between the couple- Gwen, alone in a train station, tires of waiting for Adam and astonishes him by preparing to travel alone. Similarly, director Caps-Kuhn inserts clues as to the likely source of Gwen’s emotional confusion so the steps she takes towards a resolution, while apparently minor, have a significant impact and provide hope of salvation.

The mildly salacious theme of polygamy conceals a more intimate drama. The discrete atmosphere in What You See of Me results in a conclusion which is more bittersweet than tragic, but, in the satisfying manner of a traditional hero, director Isabelle Caps-Kuhn allows Gwen to resolve her own problems without assistance.

What You See of Me is screening at the Raindance Film Festivalruns from 19 – 28 June in London cinemas.

The Reviews Hub Score

Intimate drama

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