There are some secret places in the world, and even more secret places within those, where Nature herself, through splendid and beguiling composition, betrays a more sympathetic agenda. Dr. Ebbo von Siering and his family live in a place like this: a wanwood mansion hoisted above the wading waters of The Gulf of Riga. This sprawling chateau, nestled at the convergence of the conflicting political factions in early 20th century Estonia, affords Dr. von Siering a kind of diplomatic hospitality. In one room sits an empty operating table, and in the next, Russian soldiers pause politely for an impromptu chamber performance. The Dr.’s true obsession, however, lies not in musicianship or medicine but preserved in formaldehyde, lining the walls of a ramshackle sawmill on his property – a macabre curation of conjoined fetuses, lobotomy leftovers, and all cross-section of the biologically bizarre. Oda von Siering, Ebbo’s daughter, who once lived apart with her now deceased mother, is newly arrived of the household. While her father makes it clear that she’s not quite the son he always wanted, she’ll suffice to pass along the tricks of his hippocratic trade. On one momentous occasion, Oda is startled by a wounded Estonian stowaway who’s taking shelter in one of the family’s coach houses. After nursing his wounds, a burgeoning, high-stakes friendship emerges between the two. As Oda weans him back to health, she must find a way to keep his politically sensitive presence a secret from her authoritarian, death-obsessed father.
In The Poll Diaries, we are treated to a high-pedigree storytelling through the confident rendering of astounding spaces. Director Chris Kraus’ lens hovers spryly, rounding corners in manoeuvres that scarcely reveal a detail unaccompanied by feeling. His intercutting pirouettes across frames, eliciting a wild dynamism that’s not easily thrown off its emotional axis. It’s in this thoughtful and playfully elliptical way that Kraus delivers Oda into a lively maturity. Paula Beer, who plays Oda, has an admirable command of this transition. Her charisma and charm are like grace notes that warm the film’s lavender whole tones. If there is one request that we rightfully demand of every poet, it’s that they be obsessed with life, and in The Poll Diaries, we witness the kindling of that very fire.
- The Poll Diaries @ The Castro Theatre #BerlinBeyond