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EIFF Review: Kalinka (Au nom de ma fille)


Daniel Auteuil leads Vincent Garenq's sublime French-German legal drama which explores a father's quest for justice in the face of the complexities and frustrations of international borders. Kalinka (Au nom de ma fille) presents Auteuil as an actor at the top of his game excelling through Garenq and Julien Rappeneau's engaging narrative framework.

Based on the true Kalinka Bamberski case, Au nom de ma fille follows the three decade battle faced by Andre Bamberski (Auteuil) to bring his daughter's step-father, Dr. Dieter Krombach (Sebastian Koch) to justice for her murder. Faced with challenges from the French and German legal systems, Andre's story is one of perseverance and obsessive determination.

Director Vincent Garenq constructs his narrative around several time frames beginning in the mid 1970s and spanning until around 2011, with several integral points in the case explored and recreated within that. Beginning with Kalinka at a young age and the introduction of family friend, Krombach and his early friendship with Kalinka's mother, Cecile (Marie-Josée Croze) in Morocco. As time progresses, Andre discovers this relationship has gone beyond the lines of friendship and moves the family back to France - where Krombach follows. The affair continues, with Andre and Cecile soon separating and Krombach taking the stepfather role to Kalinka and the couple's son Pierre. Events take a turn for the melodramatic when Kalinka is found dead and a worrying autopsy report reveals foul play. Here Garenq's film transitions from a family drama, to compelling legal thriller as Andre begins his pursuit to bring Krombach to justice. With this time-hopping narrative, Garenq and co-writer Rappeneau deliver a narrative that feels in-depth and compelling with much of this due to the carefully constructed backstory.

Thanks to this careful scripting the hatred between Andre and Krombach feels hard-hitting and authentic - literally having years to capture the embittered sentiment. This is only furthered through the complexities and futility of international legal formalities - with years of court cases, extradition requests, French and German legal conflicts and a variety of criminal charges, Au nom de ma fille captures the sheer gut-wrenching frustration. This wearisome battle is channelled in the ageing of the film's stars with impressive make-up and styling capturing the case's effects on Cecile, Andre and Krombach.

Garenq keeps pacing swift and makes the most of well-crafted tension - much derived from the chronological structuring of the tale. We feel invested from the onset, with the twists, turns and tragedies within the narrative only fuelling this. A sublime lead performance from Daniel Auteuil helps invest us in the struggle for justice, with this fight eating into his relationships, career and finances giving Auteuil has much dramatic heft to play with as opposed to simply the grieving father. Koch is also impressive with Krombach's initial charm transitioning into a more perverse sadism and maliciousness.

Au nom de ma fille is a sheer triumph, investing us in every moment of Bamberski's quest for justice. Well-paced scripting and a multitude of game-changing narrative twists, as well as an outstanding performance from Auteuil help establish Au nom de ma fille as a masterful piece of French cinema.

★★★★★

Director: Vincent Garenq
Stars: Daniel Auteuil, Sebastian Koch & Marie-Josee Croze


Vincent Garenq 5596426899378734316
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