Undine sounds like the charming Disney movies that most people grew up loving. A beautiful water sprite longs to be human. The only way this can happen is if she finds love. Unlike those animated classics, the sprite/mermaid may also be forced to kill if the relationship does nor work out. It is a different dynamic that opens neat storytelling avenues.
Director Christan Petzold’s romantic tragedy has a fairy tale-like feel to it, but it is much darker than what current audiences may be used to. The film may be true to what these type of stories were initially like, but there is a modern sensibility to it. The female centric film tackles questions of destiny and morality more directly than the older tales.
Undine wants the romanticism of the moment to set the tone. This is not uncommon in these type of stories, but here the point of view is from the title character. It is a refreshing take that goes further than the damsel in distress or lovelorn waif of fairy tales. One of the most telling examples is when Undine’s lover compliments her intellect and manner.
It is a unique take on an ages old story and yet there is something missing. When the central conflict of Undine becomes clear, an added sense of tension is brought to the film. Things never quite reach the levels of intrigue they should, however. The movie keeps Undine’s origin vague, which takes away much from the main thrust of the plot.
Still, there is a beauty to Undine that cannot be denied. The camera gives the movie an almost noir-like film feel and the question of how much control Undine has keeps things interesting. The underlying theme about where people have been and where they are going is also a nice touch. The story wavers at times, but it has a lot to say.
Undine comes to theaters and VOD June 4
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