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also known as Der Wald vor lauter Bäumen

The Forest for the Trees2003

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  • 3.7
  • passes the bechdel test
Bursting with idealism, Melanie Pröschle, a young teacher from the countryside, starts her first job at a high school in the city. Desperate to fulfil her hopes, Melanie intends to do everything the right way. Politely, she introduces herself to her neighbors with homemade schnapps. At her first day of school, she gives a very ambitious speech for her colleagues. She wants to be a "fresh breeze" to the school. But, as Melanie copes with loneliness, established teachers and ninth grade students, it is not easy to start a new life.

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3 members like this review

One element of great filmmaking that consistently amazes me is how some directors are able to make very strict framing look effortless. In his review of MEAN STREETS, Peter Labuza discusses "motivated and invisible shots" in the film that allow particular actions to be shown onscreen without making them feel like the initial focus of the shot. Maren Ade masters this technique in THE FOREST FOR THE TREES, a debut feature that feels assured and able even with an aesthetic quality that feels anything but polished (Ade clearly did not have a blockbuster budget for this one).

In one shot, for example, the handheld camera wades around students in an elementary school classroom as Melanie, their teacher, talks to them. What could be a random walk among the characters in a lesser director's hands becomes an incisive look at individual reactions to Melanie's words. Children with more interesting responses are given priority, as the camera seems to almost accidentally face them when they react. The individuality of each supporting character is thus made clear, as highlighted reactions show off the fact that not all children in this otherwise fairly homogeneously depicted class are identical. Another shot shows Melanie and Tina in a crowd of people talking at a party. The shot might feel utilitarian a first, until Tina is seen off to the side (in a place that would have been out of the frame in many other angles) reacting to Melanie's words.

Even if Melanie is the main character of the film, the camera seems just as intent on capturing the way in which the world around her interacts with her as it is with showing her actions. Melanie's development is not so much internal as relationship-based, and her sense of self-worth is reliant on how her environment responds to her actions. By making sure the environment is constantly visible (and in such an unobtrusive, elegant, and natural way), THE FOREST FOR THE TREES reveals the concerns at its character's heart.

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top reviewer

Member Reviews (7)

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top reviewer

One element of great filmmaking that consistently amazes me is how some directors are able to make very strict framing look effortless. In his review of MEAN STREETS, Peter Labuza discusses "motivated and invisible shots" in the film that allow particular actions to be shown onscreen without making them feel like the initial focus of the shot. Maren Ade masters this technique in THE FOREST FOR THE TREES, a debut feature that feels assured and able even with an aesthetic quality that feels anything but polished (Ade clearly did not have a blockbuster budget for this one).

In one shot, for example, the handheld camera wades around students in an elementary school classroom as Melanie, their teacher, talks to them. What could be a random walk among the characters in a lesser director's hands becomes an incisive look at individual reactions to Melanie's words. Children with more interesting responses are given priority, as the camera seems to almost accidentally face them when they react. The individuality of each supporting character is thus made clear, as highlighted reactions show off the fact that not all children in this otherwise fairly homogeneously depicted class are identical. Another shot shows Melanie and Tina in a crowd of people talking at a party. The shot might feel utilitarian a first, until Tina is seen off to the side (in a place that would have been out of the frame in many other angles) reacting to Melanie's words.

Even if Melanie is the main character of the film, the camera seems just as intent on capturing the way in which the world around her interacts with her as it is with showing her actions. Melanie's development is not so much internal as relationship-based, and her sense of self-worth is reliant on how her environment responds to her actions. By making sure the environment is constantly visible (and in such an unobtrusive, elegant, and natural way), THE FOREST FOR THE TREES reveals the concerns at its character's heart.

3 members like this review
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top reviewer

I liked this movie. If you've ever taught kids in 7th to 9th grade you can relate to her hellish job. The parent who thought her brat's horrible behavior was the teacher's fault is very typical, sadly. The ending vexed me, though. I thought the worst was going to happen, then I wondered if it DID happen, and the almost spiritual/fantastic ending was a metaphor for that tragic event I was predicting. Definitely worth watching!

3 members like this review

Sad. Sad. Sad. I haven't cringed this much in a long time, but I couldn't look away from the train wreck I knew was coming. Extremely well acted.

2 members like this review
180311.small
top reviewer

It was so painful to watch moments of Melanie trying to be a part of her world - to connect. Did she take the back seat and let her life spin out, or did she just enjoy the ride?

1 member likes this review

Though the cinematography was poor, the acting was compelling and the narrative unsparing, portraying realistically the wages of isolation and despair at not being able to master one's circumstances. Melanie descends, as we all could, into a desperate need for positive human contact, which leads to a self-destructive end. But for those who live alone in a place without friends, this is a scenario that is all too possible, and real.

1 member likes this review

sad..just like the comment below. i could relate to her in a lot of ways I even sub for schools for a few yrs (a lot) ..burned out and did not go back to follow up..especially after my own kids left the house. I didn't give this movie a five. However, her acting was really goo..and the movie and what she went through with that friend was horrible. I wish she could have rose above all that bullshit and asshole friends. maybe she did at the end by getting rid of her friends crap and driving away .. just weird. I thought she'd put those kids in line, clean her house and tell her friend to go get fucked. Sometimes life or things don't wk out that way. i must have liked this movie since I'm writing so much about it. Feel like I'm going in circles. On a funny or realistic note she probably lost her job (or maybe she wanted and left that way on purpose...lol write when the class seemed under control). Now she can go home and clean up her house or better yet move out of that place ...or stayed made her life look great so her asshole ugly friend/neighbor would be jealous... (ONE OF THOSE MOVIES THAT LEAVES YOU WITH SO MANY SCENARIOS IT CAN GO AT THE END!).

This movie really bored me and it was really hard to get through it. I did not like it.