REVIEW: ‘Softness of Bodies’ Falls Short of Its Potential

★ ★

“A beautiful film with more potential than it knows what to do with.”

Written and directed by Jordan Blady, Softness of Bodies is an independent film about an American poet living in Berlin as she competes for a prestigious poetry grant. While it is beautifully shot, the film ultimately has more potential than it could ever know what to do with. 

The film serves as a potential-filled, meandering character study of its protagonist Charlotte Parks (Dasha Nekrasova) who, over the course of the film, is described as a narcissist, a shoplifter and a woman with daddy issues. Unfortunately any exploration of her character remains relatively shallow. Charlotte not only steals clothes, shoes, boyfriends and trivial convenience store items but also poems, and while this might seem like a fascinating character trait, without any contemplation of what that might mean all it serves to do is establish that Charlotte shoplifts. If you were looking for a multi-dimensional manic pixie dream girl, which perhaps is a bit of an oxymoron in of itself, then you should look further, as she is not present in this film. 

Whether it is as Charlotte rides her bicycle across Berlin, in the apartment she shares with her gay roommate Remo (Johannes Frick), or as she reads her poetry in a softly lit coffee shop, Softness of Bodies is beautifully filmed: each shot an artful and well-made composition. The film makes ample use of the realist perspective, as the majority of mumblecore films do, much to its great benefit. The visuals throughout the film are a definitive high point and while some sequences ultimately feel superfluous, Softness of Bodies truly shines in its cinematography. 

Somehow both desperate and disinterested in having someone love and adore her, Charlotte wavers between her relationships with her boyfriend Franz (Moritz Vierboom), who is dating someone else, her ex Oliver Ross (Morgan Krantz), and a fellow poet Nathan (Matthias Renger). Charlotte exists in each of their eyes almost entirely as a subject of great beauty and attraction, though that blatant sexualization and objectification is passed off under the thin veneer of an artist’s eye. And yet, despite the numerous attempts to emphasize the dynamic between Charlotte and her potential romantic interests, the most interesting interactions throughout the film ultimately take place between Charlotte and the women around her. The rivalry between Charlotte and Sylvie (Nadine Dubois) serves as a sort of touchstone throughout the film, something Charlotte comes back to time and time again, though whether this is a relationship which only feeds Charlotte’s narcissism and intense feelings of superiority or if it secretly serves to undercut any sort of healthy self-esteem she might have is unclear. Charlotte also has an interesting relationship with Franz’s girlfriend Marianne (Lena Reinhold), who, despite having an animosity towards her, unwittingly saves Charlotte from being mugged. Unfortunately, these dynamics seem underutilized and feel as if they still have more life left to give before the start of the credits, leaving us with only the now-empty potential of what could have been.

Directed By: Jordan Blady

Produced By: Jelena Goldbach, Catherine Morawitz, Philipp Zakrzewski

Cast: Dasha Nekrasova, Morgan Krantz, Nadine Dubois, Alexander Tschernek, Johannes Frick, Lena Reinhold, Moritz Vierboom, Matthias Renger

Release Date: September 25, 2018

Available On: Amazon Prime

Featured Image Courtesy of Studio Saboteur & ZAK Film Productions