After the wacky and outrageous Engel mit schmutzigen Flügeln, Roland Reber returns to his pet theme of forcing people into unnatural surroundings and watching them respond. His eagerly anticipated “Die Wahrheit der Lüge” [Eng. Title: The Truth of Lie] could be seen as an extension of ‘The Big Game’ played out in The Dark Side of Our Inner Space.
Two women – ‘the Courageous’ and ‘the Hesitant’ are hired by ‘the Writer’ (who we never see write a single word) as part of his research into the limits of human tolerance beyond which their spirits would break. He sets about by imprisoning them in a disused factory and subjecting them to various forms of torture. The project is funded by an uncompromising publisher who is keen to see some worthwhile ‘results’, and she is ready to do whatever it takes to reach its purpose…
I have two main points of criticism for this film. Unlike Reber’s earlier works, the protagonist here is a male – the Writer. And for it to work, the characterisation must not only be well defined than the male characters in his other films, he must also be adequately obsessed with his quest to the point of making him appear almost menacing to his subjects. Unless Reber intended to explore the women’s secretly held desire to be ‘controlled’ by someone, which I doubt, this film requires the Writer to propel the drama, and Christoph Baumman, as likeable a chap as he is, unfortunately doesn’t cut the mustard. The other let-down is the lighting and needlessly wide camera angles which are at odds with the claustrophobic atmosphere the film is supposed to recreate, at least for the first half of the film. Was it because they got carried away with the awesome set – I don’t know, but it certainly doesn’t add to the narrative. It may work for theatre, not so for cinema. It also isn’t helped by the fact that this film was shot in HD – the level of detail presented makes the incongruence all the more jarring.
There are however several fascinating topics that the film tries to explore – are we really in control when we think we are, is there a truth lurking behind a lie, can people endure unpleasant experiences for longer if they are made aware of when it will end, etc. But the idea of getting willing subjects to reach ‘the peak’ – the limit beyond which they would break down, promises more than it actually delivers, as the attention gets diverted to the ‘big game’ planned by the protagonist’s publisher. True – if an advanced state of depravity needs to be explored thoroughly, Reber may have to go all the way and take the film into the horror genre like Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs. That’s ironic – because unlike that horror film, the actresses in The Truth of Lie actually go through some testing procedures for real, whether it is waterboarding, getting locked up in confined cages, or being restrained to spanking benches – Roland Reber certainly is one of the few directors in cinema to seriously peruse BDSM practices as part of their narrative these days. It is therefore reasonable to assume that one cannot possibly expect any more from these actresses than what they’ve already delivered, because they experience it themselves. The ‘court’ scene towards the end is a crucial part of the film, where the Publisher takes on the role of judge, jury, and executioner – it is well performed, but perhaps I may have lost some of its nuance through the translated subtitles.
To summarise, this is another experimental project by Roland Reber, and he succeeds once again in stirring mixed emotions among critics and viewers alike. While I may disagree with several aspects of this film, nothing could take away its sincere attempt to push the boundaries as Reber had always done. And for that in itself, Long Live Independent Cinema..!
WTP International certainly know how to make films with limited budgets – just as well because they’re resolutely self-financed. Not only was this film produced in record time, to its immense credit it also utilises its resources quite creatively. Newcomer to WTP Julia Jaschke gives a sincere performance as the Hesitant, while the lovely Marina Anna Eich takes on her least glamourous role to date as the Courageous – she gives it her all with total conviction. However, I couldn’t help feeling she was perhaps underutilised, even if a touch overexposed – the film features prolonged scenes of nudity even by Reber’s standards, particularly from Ms. Eich, even if none of them are particularly pleasant. The ‘Making of’ snippets indicate they were actually nude in several more scenes that didn’t make the final cut. We also get to see a different side to Antje Nikola Mönning – while she played the capricious Lucy in Angels with Dirty Wings, here she’s the cold and calculating Publisher, but every bit as outrageous. Ms. Mönning also dons the mantle of Assistant director apart from sharing production duties alongside other members of the WTP ‘gang’ – Roland Reber, Marina Anna Eich, and Patricia Koch (who by the way really ought to be in front of the camera as well).