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Sundance 2021: “Human Factors”


© Courtesy of Sundance

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The bond of a family lies in its unity, connection and trust. When that trust is betrayed, everything else will begin to collapse. What European writers and directors get is that unique family dynamic which they are so skilled at delivering to the small and big screen.

French-German couple, Nina (Sabine Timoteo) and Jan (Mark Waschke), are already going through a tense relationship. They barely speak to each other or discuss anything, even though they both work at their own agency. When burglars enter their house, that was seen by no one but Nina, the predicament is supposed to bring the family together. However, it opens up the savagely injured wounds of broken trust and strength by testing patience and respect for each other as they try to find a way to move forward.

It all happens in the beginning when strangers enter the house while Jan is outside, speaking on the phone. He hears the noise, enough to be disturbed. But he does not move, and continues discussing his work. Jan is not a typical character from Ruben Östlund’s “Force Majeure” where another man of the family, Tomas, grabs his phone and runs away leaving his children and wife to deal with the avalanche. However, it’s almost a similar situation in terms of why the man did not move when he heard a scream? Was he confused, misheard something, or just did not care?

Nina, on the other hand, seems intuitive and smart but uncompromising. She clearly tells her husband that she is against the political campaign Jan signed up for. But her issue is not just the political campaign but the fact that her husband made such a crucial decision without discussing it with her first. The family dynamic in the film is very strong as it uncovers all the dark sides of the entire family. No one is perfect yet try to be. As for the technique, writer/director Ronny Trocker uses pure perfection by bringing us to the most popular question – did anyone really barge into the house or was it just a figment of Nina’s imagination? Or was Jan right, who thinks maybe nothing happened? Or Max (Wanja Valentin Kube), the son who saw but said nothing? How about Emma (Jule Hermann), the daughter?

That said, the film carries a very important title, “Human Factors”, around which the story revolves. Everything is about the errors we make, perceptions and circumstances that force us to act one way or another. In the end, it’s what we do and our actions that count the most. It’s just up to the characters created by Trocker to find their own way. To continue building up a healthy family, or begin contaminating it with distrust, indifference and negligence. If the last three factors appear, is it still considered the human factor is the most important question this film manages to provide a clear and concise answer to.

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