Emma Rothner is trying to unsubscribe from a magazine. A typo in the email address sees her request land in the in-box of Leo Leike. The mix-up is soon clarified, but an email romance ensues between the two. Emma is married to Bernhard, an older, brilliant, orchestral conductor, taking on his two children after their mother died. Leo is in an off-again, on-again relationship with Marlene, who has just dumped him on the eve of their trip to Paris. Deciding to remain in the moment, Emma and Leo promise not to research each other, but simply to correspond. A kind of love blossoms.
Based on the very popular novel by Austrian writer Daniel Glattauer, The Space Between the Lines cleverly explores the fear of intimacy, and the seductive power of fantasy. Leo seems to only enjoy relationships at their beginning or at their end; Emma had her breath taken away by an older, brilliant, tragic man. But for both of them the humdrum of everyday connection lacks the spark they crave.
The novel has had several adaptations, including a radio play starring David Tennant as Leo. In this movie version, director Vanessa Jopp has cleverly maintained the epistolary nature of the novel without losing a sense of the cinematic. Jane Ainscough’s beautiful screenplay gives the actors plenty to do while the correspondence rolls on.
Nora Tschirner and Alexander Fehling are delightful as Emma and Leo respectively. Danish actor Ulrich Thomsen (The Blacklist; The New Pope) gives a measured and moving performance as Bernhard.
This is an unashamedly romantic film, but with some bite. Fantasy is portrayed as something delightfully enjoyable, yet also a way to avoid true intimacy. Nobody is right or wrong: here is just a group of people, all trying to figure it out in their own, sometimes clumsy ways. It’s that rare thing: a romantic film for grown-ups.
The Space Between the Lines is showing as part of the German Film Festival at Palace Nova Eastend and Prospect.
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