Casting is a German indie that we stumbled across at this year’s LFF and were pleasantly surprised. The premise of the story is centred around director Vera (Judith Engel) and her crew, who are on a mission to find the right female lead for a new TV remake of a Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1972 film, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. Director Nicolas Wackerbath uses a mockumentary style to record proceedings, consisting of long close up shots, where everything is presented in a candid, all flaws bared fashion, giving a factual in-depth look at the filmmaking hierarchies at play.
We get an educated glimpse into the alluring if often excruciating process of the casting couch. Auditions unfold as actresses come to the set and the actor-director-producer ego battles descend into a cringe worthy fright fest until Vera finally makes her final decision to the relief of a rather disheartened crew. To facilitate the auditions, they hire stand-in actor, Gerwin (Andreas Lust) a buffoonish character to temporary play the part of the male lead, which is already assigned to another well-known actor.
As the auditions roll out and the producer/ director feedback is dished out; no matter how much a connoisseur of an actor is; rejection comes at a great emotional cost. An actor called in for her fourth audition for the job, and made to wear a wig to transform her looks or when one acclaimed actress shows up only to be dismissed on the spot for hot having the right look. It is all harsh, cut-throat and often unpalatable to watch. Nevertheless, as a bystander the nuances of the situation provides great comedic value Engel’s Vera is the highlight for the film, her transition from passive, confused to dominant control freak whenever it suits her makes you warm to her and dislike her simultaneously. She panders to actor’s self-esteem when it suits her; giving them false promises to get their best performances but then at the same time lets herself off the hook, when telling them that it’s the producers who have the final say. Lust is also exceptional as the goofy, pathetic stand-in, wearing his aspirations on his sleeve, to be more than a just a mere stand-in.
The film follows a simple and easy to follow plot, as we shadow Vera on her pursuit for the perfect Petra Von Kats. However, the emotional turmoil the film gives its audience, is much more convoluted as it conjures up an array of feelings from embarrassment to humour to sadness and then back again. This perhaps occurs as the film heavily relies on the cast and their spot on emotionally raw deliveries; possibly tapping into their own gruesome experiences on the casting couch. Its riveting stuff which makes Casting an immensely captivating picture.
Words by Daniel Theophanous
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