Rostock PD Blues
Andreas Dresen's Die Polizistin
Elke de Wit
Die Polizistin (The Policewoman, 2001) charts the story of Anne (Gabriela Maria Schmeide), a recent graduate from the police academy. Now 27, she is hoping for a new start in life, a new job and, maybe, even a new man.
Unfortunately, her first placement is in the bleakest of areas: the crime hot spot of Rostock, to which we are introduced in the first few minutes of the film. The camera travels along, panning across the high rise blocks, accompanied by the soft (and sexy) voice of Anne; the grainy picture has the feel of a documentary shot on video rather than on 35mm.
To my surprise, Die Polizistin is shot in colour. I say this because initially, shortly after seeing the film, I was convinced that it had been made in black and white, as most directors would have used this device as an effortless way of creating a mood that is melancholy, gloomy and desolate for their film.
To my mind, however, the use of black and white stock often also has the side effect of immediately making a film look dated. It is to the credit of Dresen that he did not resort to this, yet succeeded in creating a powerful atmosphere. Consequently, his film manages to be both contemporary and moody.
Breaking into the male ranks
When Anne arrives at the (seemingly tiny) police station, it soon becomes quite apparent that no provision has been made for the arrival of a woman. There are no separate changing facilities or toilets, and, contrary to what the viewer expects, she does not seem unduly troubled by this. If anything, she appears to quite like the idea of being the only woman, surrounded by so many men.
It is the men who do not really know how to deal with her. For all women who brace themselves prior to walking past a building site, watching Anne saunter with a total lack of self-awareness through this all-male, and traditionally macho, police environment is a daunting experience.
Although it is at first difficult to believe that there are women such as her out there, the acting and the script convince you that there must be. Anne's character manages to be independent, needy, vulnerable, feminine and humorous, all at the same time. I, for one, not only believed in the character that Gabriela Maria Schmeide had created, but also wished I could be like her.
As the novelty of the policewoman's new job wears off, the daily futility of dealing with all the paperwork and petty crime becomes apparent. We have a distinct feeling that this job is no different to any other the heroine might have had in the past, and that it, too, did not deliver on its promises.
Anne also experiences conflict between her obvious humanity and the duties of her job. She tries to help a prostitute escape with the purse she has stolen from a client and, even worse, she has a fling with a known petty criminal whose son she has befriended. She is also tempted by her surly police partner, although she knows that he is married and that a fling will not lead her to happiness.
Her constant lack of direction in her daily job, which consists mostly of her completing an apparently endless number of forms, driving around after ostensibly unimportant criminals and attempting to intervene in domestic incidents, is juxtaposed with an equally fragmented private life. She is on a mission to be happy, but since there is no tranquillity in or around her, happiness is always beyond reach. The external changes she has made in an attempt to change her future have not actually altered her.
This is really what makes this film appealing: it is a mirror of how lacking
in stability our society has become. We try to create this stability by changing our circumstances, but we effectively remain disorientated. In keeping with this belief, the story of Die Polizistin
also lacks a conclusion.
Yet at the end we feel, nevertherless, that not only have we been given an insight into someone else's life, but also that, maybe, we will be able to use some of the lessons we've learned for ourselves. In short, this is a touching film, well-executed, with a more than welcome flair for seeing the humour in even the most dire situations.
Elke de Wit, 7 May 2001