Film Review: The Complexities of Friendship Are Explored in German Drama ‘Blurred Lines’ (‘Räuberhände’)

TLA Releasing bring German coming of age drama Blurred Lines to the UK on DVD this month. The feature from director Ilker Çatak and writer Gabriel Simon – who adapts Finn-Ole Heinrich’s 2007 novel Räuberhände – puts a complex friendship dynamic under the microscope as two young men battle with their identity and the lines between friendship and something deeper.

Janik (Emil von Schönfels) and Samuel (Mekyas Mulugeta) are two extremely close best friends from different backgrounds, fresh from finishing their final year at school. Janik’s middle class family are involved and encouraging of his schooling, whilst Samuel’s home life is more fractured and bohemian lacking the stability of his close friend’s. After an incident involving Janik and Samuel’s mother, the young men proceed with a trip to Istanbul in the hope of connecting Samuel with his estranged father. Tension bubbles along throughout this journey with the complexities of a damaged friendship and the tension of whether it could become something more never far from view.

Ilker Çatak crafts an earthy rural aesthetic in Blurred Lines as Janik and Samuel regularly convene at an old garden, a place for them to meet girls and exert a sense of freedom away from the watchful eyes of parents. Capturing the sense of aimless unsettlement after the confines of high school are lifted, the boys find themselves drifting in pleasant limbo in this derelict little safe haven. An early scene capturing Samuel walking in on Janik in the throws of passion with a young woman, captures the sense of closeness and openness between the characters, something that trickles throughout Blurred Lines.

There’s a natural spark between actors Mulugeta and von Schönfels with the pair convincing in crafting an authentic-feeling friendship, yet both young actors are capable of capturing the subtleties of the ‘will they, won’t they’ dynamic of these flirtatious exchanges. Blurred Lines sees both talents perfectly display a sense of a friendship not affected by the prejudice of social or economic background, one driven by connection, warmth, and love. Given this evident strong bond between the characters, a poor choice from Janik which sees him caught having sex with Samuel’s mother proves a brutal blow to the young friends’ relationship. Whilst Blurred Lines does not delve hugely into the inappropriate near-grooming style behaviour of Samuel’s mother, writer Gabriele Simon chooses to examine the effects that this moment has on Janik and Samuel’s relationship instead.

Blurred Lines may seem like a somewhat straight-forward coming of age friendship drama, yet the subtext that director Çatak manages to craft alongside writer Simon, is undeniably impressive. The tension that follows this moment follows the boys on their trip to Istanbul to connect with Simon’s father. Questions about whether Samuel is jealous of this moment between his mother and Janik are subtly inferred, whilst Samuel’s quick integration into Turkish culture (as Janik struggles) causes further unease between the pair. The scenes in Istanbul are amongst the film’s strongest – shot with a warmth and energy by cinematographer Judith Kaufmann – these also shine as some of the most thematically interesting. Samuel’s ability to quickly form friendships in Istanbul and immerse himself in the culture polarises with Janik’s experience – he finds himself cynical. untrusting and jealous at his friend’s enthusiasm.

Throughout all this tension explored in Blurred Lines, Çatak keeps things open to interpretation – gently blurring and hinting at the potential for more in this friendship, yet never quite explicit in these moves. This allows the skilled performances from Mulugeta and von Schönfels much to play with as they capture this unconventional, tense, yet ultimately very loving bond between two young men.

Blurred Lines comes to DVD November 16th, 2021. Details here.

Blurred Lines from TLA Releasing on Vimeo.