Synopsis

Lola (Valerie Pachner) wakes with a start. She has what we’ll soon learn is an uncharacteristic smudge of mascara beneath her too-bright, too-awake eyes. But then this is the Lola of later not the woman to whom Marie Kreutzer’s nervy, nuanced drama.The Ground Beneath My Feet first introduces us  not the ambitious high performance business consultant whose only respite from a grueling high heels and rolling suitcase. Lifestyle appears to be a similarly grueling workout regime. Whether sweating ferociously in some anonymous hotel gym prepping for a 48hour workday with a morning jog or burning the midnight oil over spreadsheets and data analysis, the ground beneath Lola’s feet is a treadmill.

The absolute order of her life compartmentalized right down to the borderline psychotic neatness of her underwear drawer, conceals a messy secret. Lola’s older sister Conny (Pia Heidegger) is a paranoid schizophrenic who has been hospitalized following a suicide attempt that Lola insists unconvincingly was an accidental overdose. For a time, Lola maintains her impervious professional front concealing her real whereabouts from her colleagues and her boss Elise  with whom she is having an affair as she flies back and forth between work in Rostock and Conny’s institution, and her own rarely lived in home in Vienna. But then, to her understated terror, she starts to suspect her own grip on reality may be faltering. Paranoia is largely the absolute absence of trust, after all, and one quality that the cutthroat job Lola does so well requires is the belief that trust is a liability.

This is a fertile if slightly familiar thriller setup ripe with the potential for unreliable narration doppelganger switcheroos and maybe even entirely invented personas. In the production notes Kreutzer herself mentions “Marnie” as an inspiration and while Lola insists, “You would never know we’re sisters,” when she finally confesses her secret, the two actresses bear enough physical similarity that there are also faint echoes of the Judy/Madeleine dichotomy from “Vertigo.” It feels cunningly engineered to make us wonder if perhaps Lola’s self-discipline is not so much a character trait as a stringently monitored act of self creation, an impression enhanced during a late scene at the salon when Lola, perhaps naturally a brunette like her sister gets her hair lightened back to Hitchcock blondness.

But though not without some gothic, noirish elements  creepy phone calls and malfunctioning elevators .The Ground Beneath My Feet” is not really a thriller at all. Kreutzer making a leap up in scope and accomplishment from 2016’s generational snapshot .We Used to Be Cool approaches her potentially sensationalist storyline with level-headed realism and her interest in exploring schizophrenia itself rather than using it as a driver for some disposable final plot twist is refreshing. This embrace of messy, compromised ambivalence over cathartic narrative revelation may frustrate those looking for a more full-throated thriller denouement, but it gives Kreutzer’s film a depth of insight that is rare in the cinematic treatment of this most misunderstood of diseases.

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