Posted: 02/19/2009


Auf der Strecke

by Elaine Hegwood Bowen

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Auf der Strecke (On the Line) is an Academy Award Nominee in the “live action short film” category that details the life of a store security guard who has an inside track on everyone at a Swiss department store.
Rolf, the security guard played by Roeland Wiesnekker, is really in love with the book department clerk, Sarah. His life is thrown off kilter when he notices Sarah on the train with someone who he mistakes for her boyfriend. Rolf appears crestfallen when he notices the two together, because he has unspoken feelings for Sarah.
After Sarah and the man have an argument, Rolf is left on the train with the man, who is bullied by a group of young men. As the altercation turns more violent, the group of young punks beats the man down; a beating so brutal that ultimately causes the man’s death.
Rolf does nothing, however, to come to the man’s defense when he’s being attacked, and he’s burdened by this fact for the duration of the movie.
It’s not until after the incident that Rolf learns that the dead man is Sarah’s brother.
He never tells Sarah, who’s played by Catherine Janke, that he witnessed her brother’s murder, but he feels obligated to console her in his own way, i.e., travelling home with her on the train after work; showing her the security control room; taking her out to dinner and to shooting a couple games of pool.
Sarah is a sweet girl whose heart aches for her brother, because she feels guilty about the argument that they had and ultimately responsible for his death.
Auf der Strecke has won 32 prizes at minor festivals throughout the world, and director and screenwriter Reto Caffi, who grew up in Bern, Switzerland, is in the running for best live action short film, among five, during the 81st Annual Academy Awards celebration to be held Sunday, Feb. 22.
Auf der Strecke is less than 30 minutes long, but it packs a wallop with deep sensitivity and passion, as Rolf does all he can to endear Sarah to him, while not revealing that he can really understand the pain she feels with the loss of her brother.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago.

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