First Look: ‘Jack’

Ivo Pietzcker stars in Edward Berger's latest film

Jack is an urban odyssey embarked upon by a ten-year-old boy, beautifully played by the young Ivo Pietzcker, as he struggles to reunite with his mother and younger brother (Georg Arms).

Director: Edward Berger.103 min

Shot almost completely with a hand-held camera and from a child’s perspective, the film transcends the obvious elements of social commentary and succeeds in creating an unexpectedly intimate portrait of a boy forced into adulthood. Among the first films screened at this year’s Berlinale, ‘Jack’ marks the director Edward Berger’s return to the big screen after a decade of working in television and elevates the expectations for the following week of the festival.

Only a few frames into the film you see Jack behaving like an adult. In the absence of the loving, but volatile twentysomething mother, he keeps things in order and takes care of his little brother Manuel. After Manuel gets into an accident on Jack’s watch, social services send the older brother to a state-run children’s home-a punishment he is prepared to endure with incredible stamina. His stay is soon interrupted as we find him on the street, running back home. After a series of episodes which exhibit the boy’s resourcefulness, he manages to retrieve his brother and continues the search for his mother who has, in the meantime, disappeared.

This is where the film becomes repetitive.  Once the outrage over child abandonment wares off, the images become too familiar. As the boys keep coming back to the empty apartment they can’t enter, the audience is introduced to the urban backstage; the camera rummages through empty stadiums, restaurant kitchens and car parks and finally leads back to the miraculously lit window of the family apartment. The film reveals itself as a brutal coming-of-age story as Jack’s transformation reaches its climax. His character undergoes a dramatic shift from slightly automated adult behaviour to full appropriation of an adult mindset.

The motif of surrogacy reverberates through the entire film. It puts its emotional centre point on the audience who are, thanks to the POV consistency, fully immersed into Jack’s world in which he assumes the role of a surrogate parent for Manuel. Just as Jack assumes the role of the parent for his younger brother, the audience watches over the boys with parental concern and uneasiness which ultimately makes Jack an extremely warm film.

 

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