Ferien (Vacation, 2007) was perhaps the festival’s best German feature. Thomas Arslan’s latest outlines the strained composition of a family and the disintegration of a marriage, set in a luminous Brandenburg summer. The film is confined: the story takes place almost exclusively on the grounds of the mother’s country house and the cinematic language speaks only static shots and long takes. Just at the very end of the film does one see the whole family together. Arslan’s feat reveals the shifting constellations of family members in individual conversations and encounters: the grandmother is tender and wise while alone with granddaughter Laura, cold when Laura’s sister Sophie enters, and bitchy in scenes with her daughter Anna.The story’s tragic irony is the incongruity between the stability of each character’s identity in his or her own mind and the constantly changing roles each actually inhabits. Arslan previously employed non-professionals and actors unknown in Germany for milieu studies like Dealer (1999). Here he casts accomplished theatre actors (e.g. Angela Winkler) and the gesture lends the drama a taut focus. This film has neither the explosive (and exploitative?) power of Vinterberg’s Festen (Celebration, 1998) nor the psychological depth of Bergman’s Scener ur ett äktenskap (Scenes from a Marriage, 1973). But Ferien is the most alive. Arslan binds the family scenes with shots of a depopulated nature accompanied by a lush rustling: the film breathes.