“The Hannas” is a funny, fresh look at love and selfhood

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Anna and Hans are the perfect couple. For the last fifteen years, they have lived a tranquil life together with a shared love of food—one where compromise comes easily. To their friends, who affectionately label the pair ‘The Hannas,’ they are the epitome of #RelationshipGoals. However, everything changes as two sisters with a storied past, Kim and Nico, inadvertently find their way into their lives. Soon, paths collide, and their interactions give rise to an awakening that forces them to change the way that they look at themselves, at their relationships, and the world around them.

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The Hannas (“Die Hannas”) is an affecting, oftentimes funny, cinematic exploration of relationships and selfhood. Writer and director Julia C. Kaiser, most recently known for her movie “Das Floß!,” has a knack for providing an intimate look at relationships and all of the intricate complexities that go with them. As a whole, the film feels like a beautiful marriage between touches of the absurd and elements of Kammerspielfilm, and it skillfully gives agency to a cadre of very distinct characters.

This is crucial as The Hannas is as much about coupling as it is about uncoupling, and with equal measure, it is about Self. Through motifs of food and body (even the grips of a rock climbing wall are evocative of the female body), Kaiser plays into the mundane, allowing it to mold and transcend with the characters as they love, hurt, and ultimately transform each other.

The Hannas takes the trope of the seven-year itch and turns it on its head in a funny way. It hasn’t been seven years. It’s been fifteen, and the duo is subsumed by couplehood at the expense of their individuality. Throughout the movie, the viewer is often confronted with the spectacle of relationship. Anna (played by Anna König) and Hans (played by Till Butterbach) seem happy enough—after all, they even have their own couple’s language, eerily reminiscent of twin speech—but the moniker given to the pair illustrates their interchangeability as they have basically become the same person, and in many ways have become less of a person and more of an amalgamation of what their relationship represents. Both König and Butterbach do a wonderful job at walking the line between complacency in their partnership and their budding discontent.

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While this piece centers around the interactions between four different characters, and does a really good job endearing the viewer to their outer circles of friends, much of this movie seems to be Anna’s story. Deftly played by König, who was recently seen as a soon-to-be-wed lesbian in Kaiser’s last film—there is a large crossover of actors from “Das Floß!” to The Hannas—early moments in the film allude to an unhappiness with her mundane existence.

We see her in her therapist’s office as she is asked why she thinks she isn’t having a breakdown. Her response is simple, “I am having a breakdown. Right now I’m having a breakdown. Just too softly. It won’t come out.” After further discussion, she tells her therapist that she wants to feel good, and that she would probably need to change for that to happen.

She blatantly states that she would like to be more authentic. Soon enough, the beautiful Nico (played by Ines Marie Westernströer) comes into her life, causing her to awaken in different ways, and enabling her to come to terms with what “authentic” really means. Not too long after meeting, Nico tells Anna in passing, “There is something wrong with your self-awareness.” In so many ways, this lays the groundwork for what the film becomes, a lesson in the importance of being truly self aware.

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The Hannas does not shy away from the pain, joy, and purpose of love. Where this film excels is in how human it is. This movie isn’t a story about an affair. It isn’t a story about a sapphic romance. It isn’t a story about self discovery. It isn’t a love story. It is all of those and not fully any one of those things. Almost every character, even secondary characters, are inextricably tied to love in one way or another. They all have love, or lack thereof, tied to their identity.

There is a trio of friends referred to as “The Holy Trinity of Exhausted Hearts.” There is Kim (played with raw vulnerability by Julia Becker), Nico’s sister who seeks intimacy in a nontraditional way. Nico has a fear of being alone. Both sisters still carry demons from their past with them (I won’t give away any spoilers). Everyone is caught on, and seemingly identifies with, the notion of love. But what if love is misleading? Hans and Anna have it. Yet, when Hans meets Kim for the first time, at a weight-loss program, he is quickly intrigued and drawn to the man he can be with her, proving that the spectacle of relationship is not always as it seems

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The film is smartly executed and well worth the watch. Kaiser gives a fresh take on old tropes and aptly leaves no detail untouched as she meticulously dissects the lives of this group of people. Possibly the most lingering detail of The Hannas is that, as she explores love between these 30-somethings, Kaiser shows the value of authenticity above all else, and that sometimes, the most important thing you can do is find yourself. This film has been garnering attention at various film festivals and was recently screened at the Inside Out Film Festival in Toronto.

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