La Ligne’s opening sequence is one for the annals. In slow motion, accompanied by operatic song, a young woman is shown, exploding in anger. What starts out with music equipment thrown against the wall ends with Margaret striking her mother, who falls inauspiciously onto a piano. While the origin of this particular violent outburst remains offscreen, it becomes evident that anything can set Margaret set off. As a consequence of the incident, a court-ordered contact ban prohibits her from coming closer than 100 metres to her family’s house. Torn between her relatives, Margaret’s younger sister Marion marks the distance by painting a blue line on the ground and continues to meet with her at the border, where the two practice music.
The French Competition entry stars Stéphanie Blanchoud, who not only co-wrote the screenplay but contributed original music to the film. Her empathic approach to Margaret as a woman without coping mechanisms makes her a hot contender for Best Leading Performance. Berlinale favourite Valeria Bruni Tedeschi portrays her mother, Christina, with equal bravura, layering her character with micro-aggressions against her children.
Ursula Meier’s script and direction are well developed, with each character fully fledged and having objectives of their own.
What ties this dysfunctional family together over all of their differences is music: Christina used to be a classical pianist, Marion sings in a choir and finds solace in their religious anthems; Margaret is equally blessed with talent, writes chansons, but her temper did not spare her work relationships. Singer Benjamin Biolay plays a supporting character, who decides to give Margaret another chance.
The Line not only explores the effects of physical violence on multiple parties, it sheds light on a very complex matriarchal dynamic. Visually represented by a line transcending gravel, road and grass, the abstract term “restraining order” becomes palpable, like an invisible fence.
The issue of social separation feels particularly topical. As society has had to learn to keep a distance of 1.5 metres from fellow humans, one can imagine how difficult it can be to stay that much further away from loved ones.
La Ligne (The Line) does not have a UK release date yet.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.