Rotterdam 2023 Review: ORPHEA IN LOVE Steals Your Eyes And Ears

Axel Ranisch' new film sympathetically tells a love story with some fantastical ups and downs.

Editor, Europe; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
Rotterdam 2023 Review: ORPHEA IN LOVE Steals Your Eyes And Ears
It must be fun to be an established, experienced director and be able to throw several of your loves into one project. Media Jack-of-all-trades Axel Ranisch got to do just that with his new film Orphea in Love. In it, he combines his love of cinema, ballet and opera, tosses in some crime and suspense for good measure, then covers it all in visual beauty. The word of mouth from audiences at the International Film Festival Rotterdam was very positive, so I checked it out and was delighted.

IFFR2023-orpheainlove-ext1.jpgWe follow Nele, a young woman who has recently moved from Estonia to Germany for studies. Nele has a great singing voice for opera and often has fantasies in which her dreary surroundings change into bright, colorful shows. One day she meets Kolya, a pickpocket who diverts his victims' attention with his acrobatic ballet skills while an accomplice robs them. Nele loses her wallet to Kolya, but the two cannot forget each other. When Kolya on a whim decides to return the wallet to Nele, he triggers memories in her and it is the start of a series of events which range from romantic, to violent, to supernatural. Is there a future for these two starcrossed lovers, each in a different way on the fringe of society?

Strictly rooted in our world, Orphea in Love does not go for the visual barrage of Baz Luhrman's films, which always seem to take place in a different universe. But for the more fantastical scenes it does approach that sensibility, same as the more realistic films of Terry Gilliam do. A long-time director of feature films, television series and theatrical performances including opera, Axel Ranisch seemingly effortlessly switches from gritty realism to flights of colorful fancy whenever he wants. Nele is played by Mirjam Mesak, who similarly switches on an inner radiance whenever she sings or stars in her fantasies, but who is remarkably down-to-Earth and relatable when fighting her inner demons. And Guido Badalamenti whooshes through the screen like a human elastic band as the enigmatic dancer Kolya. Much of the narrative leans on the believability of these two actors' attraction for each other, and the good news is: they deliver.

It makes Orphea in Love a very easy film to like, and when Ranisch pumps up the drama, suspense and splendor, it sometimes becomes a film to fall in love with.
The paying public in Rotterdam was similarly enamored and awarded Orphea in Love an incredibly high audience rating of 4.7 out of 5, landing it on the fifth position of the festival's favorites list.

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