3 Days In Quiberon review: Emily Atef’s portrait of the French-German film star Romy Schneider during three days at a five-star health resort in western France.
3 Days In Quiberon review by Paul Heath.
Romy Schneider was once Europe’s most famous movie star. In a career that started when she was just 15 years old, all the way through to her premature death in 1981, the actress appeared in over sixty motion pictures, winning an array of awards along the way. Emily Atef’s new film examines the three days the actress spent in a five-star health resort in the French community of Quiberon on the west coast of the country.
The year is 1981 and we follow a middle-aged woman named Hilde Fritsch (Birgit Minichmayr) into the beach-fronted resort, an exclusive Diététique hotel where everything – dairy, meat, gluten and especially alcohol, is off the menu. Holed up in one of the rooms there is Romy Schneider (Marie Bäumer), now a forty-two-year-old film star still very much active in the industry, and we soon discover that Fritsch is an old childhood friend of the actress and has been invited to spend a couple of days with the star.
She finds Romy asleep in her bed, looking worse for wear after drying out at the resort for a period previously. Hilde is there to help Romy cope with her recuperation before heading back out to work on a new film job. What becomes clear is that Romy has also arranged for two reporters to conduct an interview with her, a photographer of whom she knows and trusts – Charly Hübner’s Robert Lebeck – and a talented journo named Michael Jürgs (Robert Gwisdek) who is there to extract as much intimate detail as possible from her for his publication ‘Stern’ magazine.
It becomes clear that Romy is battling many demons, firstly that of an addiction to alcohol, as well as the issues of dealing with the constant separation from her two children, one a teenager who refuses to live with her, and another, an infant daughter who she craves terribly.
Jürgs begins his intense discussion with the movies star, intent with the knowledge that he has her off guard, willing to spill the most intimate of details from her personal life – notably the death of her first husband, who committed suicide in Hamburg two years earlier, and the relationship with her mother, who he alleges makes a fortune off the back of her daughter’s career by leaking information to the press.
Related: Daughter of Mine review [Berlinale]
Atef’s film spans the two days of the interview, split with an impromptu night on the town away from the secluded hotel amongst the guests of a small wedding party in a local bar, the relationships that morph between the four protagonists and how attitudes amongst them change over a relatively short period of time.
Atef takes inspiration for the story from the stunning photographs taken by Lebeck and carves a very absorbing drama with four excellent performances from its cast. Bäumer is superb and an uncanny resemblance to Schneider in the lead, giving an honest and utterly believable turn as the actress. It’s a very intimate portrait of a fading star who should have still been very much at the top of her game in her early forties, but with the knowledge that she didn’t live too much longer after the events of this picture, makes it even more pertinent.
The film purposely moves at a slow pace, most of the story taking place within the claustrophobic four walls of a hotel room, but Thomas W. Kiennast’s brilliant monochrome photography adds another dimension and a very nostalgic and stylish layer to proceedings, which when mixed with the constant cigarette smoke floating around the room at any one time, and the very shallow depth of focus, makes for an elegant, though very stained, constricted feeling. This contrasts with the freeing, clean and fresh vistas of the Quiberon coast during later scenes.
A slow-burner throughout, and intricately told, 3 Days In Quiberon does manage to capture the essence of this period in the troubled actress’ life – a time, which the tagline says, was driven by romantic desire, professional ambition and the urge for living. The film delivers this in spades, largely due to the near-perfect central cast and mesmerising direction from Atef. Could be a front-runner for the prestigious Golden Bear.
3 Days In Quiberon review by Paul Heath, February 2018.
3 Days In Quiberon was reviewed at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival.