“All starts with an A,” Sophie Rois’s distinctive voice narrates over the introductory images. As she elaborates on the letter’s importance in primal sounds (a baby’s first cry, orgasms, etc), the viewer is introduced to her character. Anna is an accomplished actress, gradually fed up with her profession. Outside of her regular café, she is mugged by a bespectacled young man. As she tells her landlord and confidante Michel (Udo Kier), he drops a friendly reminder that she still owes him rent. Inevitably, Anna accepts a job offer to train a speech-impaired youth for his upcoming high school production. Introduced to Adrian, she immediately recognises him as the one who stole her purse. Working together on his pronunciation, the odd pair grow closer. But, as Anna puts it, because they had not previously seen a story like theirs depicted in any form, the two have trouble defining their relationship.

Especially compared with other Berlinale Competition entries, A Quick Alphabet delivers on its promise of a fast pace. Witty and imaginative, the German-French production takes the audience into the streets of Berlin and Nice through the eyes of the infatuated. Director Nicolette Krebitz tells an unconventional love story infused with the poetic properties of language – the ability to make oneself understood. Headed up by theatre and cinema icon Sophie Rois and screen rookie Milan Herms, the cast offers a refreshing mixture of faces, consistently bewitching. A cameo appearance by Moritz Bleibtreu (in which he plays a talkshow host getting called out for backhanded compliments) is a particularly humorous addition.

Produced by the same production company (Komplizen Film), the feature shares some similarities with Toni Erdmann: the narrative style is quirky, the female protagonist is entirely self-serving and with a personality impossible to pigeonhole. Like the 2016 Cannes success, it is conceivable that this arthouse project’s international reception could surpass its domestic resonance.

★★★★☆

Selina Sondermann

A E I O U – Das Schnelle Alphabet der Liebe (A E I O U – A Quick Alphabet of Love) does not have a UK release date yet.

For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.

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