MARION BRIDGE directed by Wiebke von Carolsfeld, written by Daniel MacIvor, produced by Bill Niven, Jennifer Kawaja and Julia Sereny, with Molly Parker, Rebecca Jenkins and Stacy Smith. A Mongrel Media release. 90 minutes. Opens Friday (April 18). For review, venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 74. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Foreign mouths often take a few runs at Wiebke von Carolsfeld's name before they get it right. The symmetries of "Veepka von Kar-" roll off the Anglo tongue as improbably as Bugs Bunny opera. She looks like she loves it. In the few years von Carolsfeld has been storming around town making a name for herself, first as an editor (The Five Senses), then a filmmaker, she's never been anything but German. No Teutonic reserve here, but German, überfüllen passion.
In conversation, she erupts. Words pour out, full of the sudden shocks of opinion you'd expect from a woman who spent her teenage years radicalized, battling nukes on the world's political fault line.
All that hubbub makes her film work especially interesting, because when von Carolsfeld directs, she's as still as deep water. Her sublime short film From Morning On I Waited Yesterday stars Molly Parker, muted and melancholy in the throes of longing.
And in Marion Bridge, her feature debut, she listens. Von Carolsfeld takes on the screen adaptation of a play by her good friend Daniel MacIvor with an attentive ear for the rhythms of sister conflict and an eye that frames Cape Breton with classical grace. It won the best-first-Canadian-feature prize at last year's Toronto International Film Festival. But it's a long way from Cologne.
"Daniel is from Nova Scotia," she explains, "but he's a man making this story about three sisters. I'm a woman but I'm not from there."
The way in, she says, was as "an outsider coming back to this small town." In the film, Molly Parker returns to Cape Breton full of the tight impatience that comes with living in Toronto. She almost literally cannot talk to her own family.
Von Carolsfeld came to Toronto at 23, already trained as a book editor. Unable to find work in English, she took to shaping images instead. It may be that her attention to the word-by-word nuance of storytelling inflects her filmmaking now.
But unlike most of her migrant director peers, she's so far pursued none of the look-homeward angst that marks so much recent Canadian film.
Von Carolsfeld's turf to date seems to be the fertile field of female dissatisfaction. Her instrument of choice is Parker, who she admits is the movie star version of her.
"A lot of directors do that," she says. "They find an actor who expresses some version of themselves on screen." With Parker, von Carolsfeld says, it's that "she works hard and she's intelligent. She thinks." firstname.lastname@example.org