Dolores (2016)


Germany. 2016.


Director – Michael Rösel, Screenplay – Sebastian Feld, Based on the Graphic Novel by Anne Baltus, Benoit Peeters & Francois Schuiten, Producer – Frieder Scheiffle, Photography – Willy Detmeyer, Music – Jorg Lemberg, Visual Effects Supervisor – Jorn Grosshaus, Production Design – Christian Strang. Production Company – Schwabenlandfilm


Udo Schenk (Georg Letterer), Franziska Petri (Dolores Moor), Mona Petri (Simone), Alexander Horbe (Franz Letterer), Marcus Grüsser (Anton), Andreas Wellano (Inspector)


In the early 1950s, Georg Letterer is a model maker who lives with a diabetic brother Franz who is dependent on him. Georg then receives a commission from movie star Dolores Moor to build an exact replica of her home so that she can sell the house and take the model with her as she moves to Hollywood. Georg says to get the measurements exact it will take months and he must move into the house. She agrees but Franz is upset at being abandoned on his own. Georg has fantasies of being with Dolores. The chauffeur Anton becomes suspicious after finding Georg sniffing Dolores’s nightgown and a dislike grows between them. Georg then begins an affair with Dolores’s personal assistant Simone. After Anton accidentally spills some of Georg’s cement mix onto the model, they find an identical lump of cement on the roof of the house. Georg then starts to find that whenever he alters something in the model it affects the house. He is thus able to cause Anton to be hospitalised due to a faulty banister and disfiguringly scalds Dolores’s lover George by applying a cigarette lighter to the model while he is showering. All who get in the way of his fantasy of being with Dolores, he deals with via the model.

This film is a feature-length debut for German director Michael Rösel. It is adapted from the 1991 single-issue graphic novel of the same name by the Belgian trio of visual artists Anne Baltus, Benoit Peeters and Francois Schuiten. The film was originally made as a tv movie but was theatrically released to international festival audiences.

Dolores has a fascinatingly original idea – that of the model maker who discovers that the exacting models he builds start to affect reality and then uses this to manipulate the situation to his advantage. The premise is one that feels like it easily could have slotted in as a half-hour episode of The Twilight Zone (1959-63) and is not dissimilar to the episode Miniature (1963), which starred Robert Duvall, although there there was no malevolent mirroring between reality and model.

The idea comes with an absurd simplicity. At feature-length, the film works without any fat on the bone, no false dramas or extraneous characters. Everything comes with an elegant simplicity of design, lighting, performances and script. I can’t think of any other film that juggles and balances all of these together to work as one as well as this does.

The play of elements as each manifestation of the house comes about – from the finding of the lump of masonry on the roof to Udo Schenck’s discovery that he can move pieces of furniture around to his then plotting to eliminate those who get in his way – works very nicely. The script slides into place with perfection, starting in a light vein focusing around a bevy of comedic supporting characters and growing increasingly sinister in tone by the second half, before arriving at a great ending.

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