Hamburg-based, multi-disciplinary artist Martha Mechow makes her feature film directorial debut with Losing Faith, an ecstatic portrait of womanhood breaking free from societal norms of femininity and motherhood. As an artist, Mechow is one part of the Bäckerei Harmonie collective, which has expressed an interest in the “tension between theater, film, and visual arts”; Losing Faith seeks to mix and match these disparate forms into a freewheeling quasi-narrative. A brief prologue sets the tone: a woman tries to rest on a couch while a baby sleeps in an automated rocker and a toddler perches at a table. The child demands her mother’s attention, the woman, in turn, sinks into the couch and disappears. It’s just a slight touch of expressionistic magic realism, but the effect is clear enough — this is not a satisfying lifestyle. We then meet Flippa (Selma Schulte-Frohlinde), who has received a letter from her big sister, Furia (Ann Göbel). It eventually becomes apparent that the two have not seen each other in years, and so Flippa travels from Germany to Sardinia to meet her. In the interim, since their last meeting, Flippa has taken in with a collective of women who travel around the Mediterranean squatting in unused homes and scratching out an existence on the fringes. Under the eye of the older Rumpel (Inga Busch), who acts like a den mother of sorts, the women raise children and otherwise live freely, unencumbered by men, jobs, or any other structures that society would foist upon them. They shoplift, throw impromptu parties in the town square, and look for male tourists to hook up with in an effort to get pregnant. As they put it, there is power in motherhood, but only if it is done on their own terms.
There’s more than a bit of Rivette in this intoxicating mixture of dancing, singing, and impromptu performance, particularly Celine and Julie Go Boating, as well as traces of Vera Chytilová’s Daisies. Working with cinematographers Nils Jakob Timm and Luis August Krawen, Mechow favors a roving handheld camera; formally speaking, her film gives the impression of being cobbled together from reams of footage, as ellipses and brief montages set to music are relied on heavily. But the editing has its own peculiar rhythm, almost musical, and Mechow has a real flair for cutting on movements and modulating the flow of each individual scene. Flippa is immediately enamored of this particular lifestyle, although it takes some time for the other women to “deprogram” her. In what amounts to a thesis statement of sorts, Rumpel tells Flippa a story about a sanatorium for exhausted and overworked mothers. As Rumpel explains, the problem with such institutions is that they don’t actually treat their patients, but simply coerce women into going back to the very system that has brought about their pain in the first place. Losing Faith is ultimately concerned with genuinely revolutionary thought to produce a cogent critique of modernity. It can’t quite manage a form to match its content, but it’s still an enthralling, rejuvenating film.
Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 27