Cinema has always been interested in love. How we fall in it, how we fall out of it. It is a story we have seen time and time again. These stories can be extremely affecting or offer nothing more to think about once you have left the theater. Miriam Bliese’s film The Components of Love is a straightforward tale with a few twists to keep the audience interested in a relationship that we have already seen portrayed hundreds of times in films.
We are introduced to our characters in the first scene by seeing the end of their relationship. Georg (Ole Lagerpusch) rushes out of an apartment building with his young son Jakob (Justus Fischer). As they get in the car, Sophie (Birte Schnöink) rushes out after them screaming expletives as she tries to chase the car down before Georg disappears with their son. A title card appears, and we are sent back in time six years to the beginning of their relationship. As the film flashes back and forth through time, depicting Sophie and Georg struggle over custody in the present while they fall in and out of love in the past, we are shown the ways in which a relationship can grow and almost inevitably crumble.
The beauty behind this film is by using different sections of their relationship, we get to see how easily one can fail. We know from the beginning that the relationship ends, so we can look back and see the points that cause the downfall. The downside of this is that it has been a technique that has been used many times over. Regardless, the relationship at each section feels realistic and the actors play off of each other organically. Many of the scenes are relatively mundane, featuring normal arguments where distance begins to grow between them.
As we continue to flash forward to the future and the custody battle grows uglier, the audience is able to develop a sympathy for both of the characters. We saw them begin and now we are seeing the end. Due to the mundaneness of their relationship, it is easy to connect them to real-life people. To then see them no longer able to communicate with each other and have their son put in the middle of it, the film creates empathy between its characters and the audience.
The Components of Love touches on what this sort of separation can do to a child stuck in between. These ideas are not really explored until the second half of the film, but becomes an important part of the story. Jakob doesn’t understand why his father and mother can no longer talk to one another. In one scene, he attempts to give his mother his phone so that she can talk to his father again. He doesn’t understand that it isn’t because of a broken phone that his parents can’t talk anymore. It is saddening to see a child attempt to understand the complexity of adult relationships.
Unfortunately, these themes are never fully realized because they are given little attention until the end. Jakob isn’t really shown until these ideas are introduced. The entire film feels distanced from the rest of its characters as well. You never get a full idea of why Sophie and Georg form a relationship and care about each other. It is clear why they begin to fall apart, but the impact of that could have been much more if the audience knew the characters better. Because of this, the whole film feels emotionally empty. Perhaps this was done to make it seem as if relationships, in general, can go through this sort of thing, but the ending of the film felt like it was trying to say more.
The Components of Love attempts to draw at the heartstrings of its audience, but it falls short. Despite solid acting and interesting scenes, the culmination of these parts forms into something too familiar to think anything more of it. The unique moments of the story happen only in scenes between Sophie and Georg when we get glimpses into their relationship. This is unfortunate since the film is clearly aiming to comment on every day relationships and the effects of them falling apart. It isn’t a bad film by any means, but it just can’t seem to reach its full potential.
This film was screened at the 55th Chicago International Film Festival.