October 2011: Falling Rocks
Two couples, a single sister, a Belgian stranger, and the middle of the African desert. A recipe for disaster, to be sure. Falling Rocks offers some unique shots and a storyline that is gripping enough for one or two viewings.
Shot in the exotic locale of Arizona (as a stand in for the South African desert), Falling Rocks charts the progress of two couples – one who just became pregnant, and the other who is on the verge of collapse. Both couples have known each other from their youths and meet up once a year to have a great adventure holiday as a way of keeping connected. They bring along the single sister of one of the wives, who also is a school friend, but whose reputation for punctuality, and sensibility leaves a lot to be desired. It is through her flaky actions, the friends get saddled with a shady Belgian who she picks up at the hotel for some afternoon delight and decides to bring along for the trip. Meanwhile, Christoph Waltz’s character, Louis, is arranging a deal to be done over some conflict diamonds. This could save his career and his marriage to his cold wife. Unfortunately, the deal goes sour and the friends become aware of the diamonds but not Louis’s connection to them. They decide to share the diamonds between them all, as a reasonable compromise. It all seems fine until, one by one, they start dying.
No prizes for guessing who is the mysterious murderer, as the plot is as transparent as a wet t-shirt (of which there are plenty in this film). In fact, wet t-shirts and hunky shots of men wearing no shirts and tight shorts are among the highlights of this film. Anica Dobra, one of Christoph’s more frequent leading ladies, is in this film but she is sadly underutilized and is forced to act overdramatic and pouty which is not a good match for her normal sunny demeanor. Clearly Dobra’s strengths lay in her portrayal of the kooky “everywoman” sorting out her love life, and not in the more taxing roles of eliciting sympathy and drama. Indeed, in this film she is annoying and one of the murderer’s early marks (much to the relief of the audience). Dobra and Waltz do not share much time interacting on screen, which is a pity, as they have worked well together on film in the past.
Peter Keglevic directs this film, who is another frequent collaborator found in Waltz’s German career, and who directed some of his most memorable roles pre-Inglourious Basterds. (Tag der Abrechnung, Das Gehmnis Im Wald, Du Bist Nicht Allein, Der Tanz Mit Dem Teufel) Keglevic is known for mostly small-screen directing, but it seems as if Falling Rocks was intended for cinematic release. Many of his trademark camera shots are not used in this film as they are specific to indoor close-quarters shooting. Instead he favors sweeping backdrop shots, and interesting camera angles on his stars which usually result in the screen being filled up by someone’s bottom or lingering too long on the gratuitous shirtless person in shot. Clever viewers can spot the same desert locations being used repeatedly (under the guise of being “new campsites”) which one assumes was due to budget constraints which may have been less of an issue had Fallen Rocks been left as a small-screen production. Indeed the storyline does not seem to merit the upgrade into cinema, as it is a standard, unoriginal tale. Keglevic’s work does seem to be at its’ best when directing dramatic reenactments of real events and not storytelling fiction.
For fans of Christoph Waltz, he is looking tanned, toned, chiseled and sexy in this film. The diamond sub-plot that his character is caught in, is not utilized to its’ full potential which basically leaves the character with not much to do but trail behind the friends, being grouchy and pensive. This would probably not be too much of a stretch, as he was not utilized to his full potential in this film either. Still, he is a joy to look at and even at his grumpiest, he manages to elevate the scene. Unfortunately he doesn’t make it to the end of the film, and is given one of the least ceremonious departures, but as he is in the movie for 3/4 of the runtime, it is worth viewing. Plus, it is one of the rare German films that have English subtitles.