European films have always been ahead of curve when it comes to nuanced portrayals of lesbian and bisexual characters. In the last few years, the most talked about and acclaimed lesbian films, Kyss Mig and Blue is the Warmest Color, have come out Sweden and France, respectively. Stylistically, films like these are very different animals than those we have grown accustomed to in the States. They are slow burners, and as much is communicated in the silences between characters as it is through dialogue. Sex, is celebrated and relationships are complex. Woman’s Lake (Frauensee), a film out of Germany and newly available for digital rental and download, follows this bold new tradition.
Woman’s Lake centers on Roza, a 40-something fisherwoman and her non-defined relationship with lover Kirsten. While grumpy Roza slips on a pair of waders each day and works the lakes near her home outside of Brandenburg, impeccable Kirsten is a successful architect. However, it’s not their vastly different careers that cause friction between the two. Together now for a year and a half, Kirsten is still hesitant to define their relationship, much to Rosa’s frustration. Their passion for one another is undeniable and seems to be the balm for many of their grievances.
While working, Roza comes across two young women, Evi and Olivia, who are on holiday canoeing the lakes. When they later ignore Roza’s warning about camping on protected land, what is at first a tense confrontation turns into a curious camaraderie between the women. Evi, a modern dancer, and Olivia, a university student, have been together for four years. Evi’s wandering eye has been an issue in their relationship, and the first moment she gets, her eye wanders right over to Roza. The instant, intense attraction between the Evi and Roza is both flattering and confusing to the older woman. When Kirsten hears of the young travellers, she tells Roza to invite them to stay at her lake house. This sets in motion a series of events that will test both couples’ relationships and force them all to face some difficult truths about love, commitment and monogamy.
The performances in Woman’s Lake are truly lovely. All four actresses bring something different to the table, and it is their ensemble dynamic that makes the movie interesting. Particularly good is Nele Rosetz, who portrays Roza with a stoic yet playful charm. Her face is beautifully expressive, which is vital in Woman’s Lake as long stretches of the film are without dialogue. Often the camera pans over the stunning vistas of the Brandenburg lakes, which are quite breathtaking. There are also many scenes where the actresses simply lounge and drink, simmering sexual tensions running through them like the streams that connect the many lakes.
Overall, Woman’s Lake is a thought provoking and taut commentary on relationships, and just how complicated commitment can be. For some it brings comfort, while others feel ensnared, not unlike a fish in Roza’s vast system of nets.
Women’s Lake (Frauensee) is now available through Wolfe Video.