Liberated Zone (December 11/05)
Liberated Zone is a stylishly directed but ultimately incoherent German film revolving around an entire community of characters, though very few of these people are developed beyond their most superficial attributes. While filmmaker Norbert Baumgarten attempts to infuse the movie with a brisk pace and an overall vibe of playfulness, Liberated Zone remains a thoroughly dull and surprisingly irrelevant piece of work throughout its relatively short running time.
Sylvia (Johanna Klante) and Micha (Florian Lukas) are engaged in an outwardly normal relationship, though it becomes clear soon enough that that's clearly not the case - as both are having affairs with other people (Micha is even sleeping with Sylvia's best friend!) Sylvia, on the other hand, has just begun seeing a local soccer hero named Ade Banjo (Michael Ojake), though it's immediately obvious that Sylvia is infatuated with his celebrity status rather than his personality.
Liberated Zone comes off as nothing less than a full-blown soap opera, with about a month's worth of storylines condensed into a 91-minute movie. Consequently, it's virtually impossible to keep track of who's who - a problem that's exacerbated by Baumgarten's refusal to offer up anything even resembling character development. Instead, the filmmaker compensates by throwing in a surfeit of periphery figures - ie the principal of a local school, a couple of laborers, etc - to the extent that even the most attentive viewer will have problems following each of the many subplots.
And though some of Baumgarten's directorial choices are admittedly quite effective, there are just as many that'll undoubtedly leave the viewer scratching their head (ie his use of a device that even Quentin Tarantino couldn't quite pull off, wherein a monetary figure is bleeped during a pivotal sequence). That's really the bottom line here; Liberated Zone's negatives outweigh its positives to such an extent that there's not much here worth recommending.