Four Minutes (Vier Minuten)

Four Minutes (Vier Minuten)

(2008)
German drama from writer/director Chris Kaus. Sour spinster and former pianist, 80 year old Traude Krüger (Bleibtreu) has been driving to the same women's prison every morning since 1944. She teaches her female students - thieves, frauds and killers - how to play the piano. She’s reluctant to help a newbie, the volatile young convicted murderer Jenny (Herzsprung), who has serious issues stemming from an abusive childhood.

But upon hearing Jenny play, Traude changes her mind and hopes to develop the inmate’s already formidable talent.

Flicks Review

There’s a bizarre morality at work in Four Minutes : the film at once idolizes the notion of ‘natural talent’, and compartmentalizes it away from the rest of its troubled characters’ defining attributes.

Fetishizing this abstract notion further, the movie then posits a series of scenarios in which its leads can be mean-spirited, weak-willed, even violent; but ultimately redeemed by what seems a hazily-defined, worryingly impractical conception of Genius.

For while the pic restricts itself almost totally to the one (almost intensely-unphotogenic , yet pleasantly idiosyncratic) metropolitan prison location, the division here isn’t between good people and bad, officious and industrious; it’s between those who Have this mysterious spirit and those who Haven’t. ‘Talent’ becomes a clear analog for the beauty in truth, the truth in beauty.

Where this doesn’t matter, of course, is in the doing: for the film’s two-hour duration, these rules work perfectly. Its leads, carrying the picture’s weight ably, are tasked with a difficult sell: providing well-rounded characters animated by a higher purpose, a search for this quizzical elixir.

In the film’s best moments, there’s an energy at work that can only be called sublime: a persuasive anima infusing performance and tone alike with exactly that which the picture would have us grudgingly embrace.

A notion, once again, of Genius as it’s literally defined: the act of moving with a higher, purer spirit, one that elevates and redeems narrative and character alike.


The Peoples' Reviews

Average ratings from 2 ratings, 2 reviews
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BY Brian1 superstar

Chris Kraus' film about a self-destructive musical genius is a real beaut.


I was blown away by this incredible powerful performance by the young actress Herzsprung. I haven't been impressed by a young acting talent like this for ages.


The Press Reviews

  • BBC

    Four Minutes makes pains to add backstory to its characters, but is prone to open up questions that are then left unanswered. It also treads a fine line between dark humour and pure gloom, which can make it drag. But embellishments come in the form of rich cinematography and strong performances from the film's leading ladies, especially Herzsprung, who is capable of turning from wild-eyed savage to conservatoire standard artist in a beat. Full Review

  • Essentially a two-hander, Four Minutes benefits from a pair of outstanding performances. Winning the role ahead of 1200 other actresses, Herzsprung is the most exciting young Teutonic actress since Run Lola Run's Frank Potente. The real star, however, is 62-year-old Bleibtreu (mother of German superstar Moritz) who metamorphises into an 80-year-old masculine yet placid Prussian piano teacher, who has devoted her life to beauty alone, with extremely impressive effect. Full Review

  • Confused and disappointing. Full Review

  • Director Kraus, who also wrote, concocts an ending which threatens to tip over into schmaltz but has a surprise up its sleeve. Whatever else the film might be accused of, you can't call it sentimental. Impressive. Full Review

  • A screenplay rich with layers and tangible characters, a unique scenario, powerful performances and gripping direction all combine to make Four Minutes an outstanding drama - despite its confronting nature, largely unsympathetic characters and sombre mood. Full Review

  • bitter female piano teacher takes on the challenge of training a gifted but self-destructive femme prisoner in German meller "Four Minutes." Plot might sound superficially like a castoff storyline from Oz soap "Prisoner: Cell Block H" crossed with "Shine," but by dint of strong performancess (especially from relative newcomer Hannah Herzsprung) and powerful use of music, the pic works in spite of itself. Full Review

  • The milieu is predictably drab, but the relationship between the two women is as poignant as the Schubert impromptu to which it unfolds. Full Review

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