Yella (film)

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Original title Yella
Country of production Germany
original language German
Publishing year 2007
length 89 minutes
Age rating FSK 12
Director Christian Petzold
script Simone Baer
Christian Petzold
production Florian Koerner von Gustorf
camera Hans Fromm
cut Bettina Boehler

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Yella is a German fiction film by Christian Petzold from 2007. It is about how a young woman from the eastern German province who unexpectedly gains a foothold in the world of venture capital negotiations seems to succeed in making the hoped-for new beginning. The leading roles were cast with Nina Hoss and Devid Striesow . The film premiere was on February 14, 2007 in the competition of the Berlin International Film Festival , the German theatrical release on September 13, 2007. After The Inner Security and Ghosts , Yella is the last part of Petzold's ghost trilogy .


Yella's departure from Wittenberge in Brandenburg is both a departure and an escape. On the one hand, a job offer in Hanover is tempting, especially in her profession as an accountant. On the other hand, she wants to break away from her husband Ben, against his stubborn resistance , which borders on stalking . On the morning of their departure, he precedes the taxi they had ordered and asks if they can at least drive them to the train station. Yella agrees, but blocks his new advertising as well as his accusation that she is leaving him sitting on the bankrupt estate of their joint existence (house and company). While driving over a bridge, Ben tears the steering wheel so that the car falls into the river. Both of them escape to the bank and are initially exhausted. When Yella wakes up after a short faint, she pulls herself up and reaches the planned train.

However, your hope for the promised job quickly evaporates. She declines a second offer from the dodgy broker, unlike that of an employee of a private equity firm. This man, Philipp, is looking for an assistant with Yella's qualifications: When he negotiates with insolvent companies about their capital requirements and weighs up the risk / return ratio, one of the things that is important is to look through the balance sheets. For her first day at work, Yella receives 1,000 euros in cash from him, combined with express praise. At the second meeting they both act like a well-rehearsed team. Philipp ensures the disillusionment and restoration of the hierarchy by setting a trap for Yella that she is carelessly falling into. In turn, she notices that he is cheating on his business partners. Before Ben suddenly reappeared, she spontaneously escaped into Philipp's arms, spent the night with him and accompanied him to a third appointment in Dessau . On the way, he lets her know about his plans for the future: he collects the money that he secretly siphons off for himself for a highly lucrative investment business. When asked whether she wants to “join in” (which implies: increasingly also as an accomplice and lover), she answers in the affirmative. When he informed her shortly thereafter that he was threatened with dismissal, she even decided to act on her own and to raise the amount of 200,000 euros that Philipp was missing at one blow by blackmailing the head of the Dessau company. With that, however, she goes over the top, because he commits suicide the next day.

Yella escapes; the picture that shows her crying in a taxi merges into the opening sequence of her ride with Ben over the bridge and then falling into the water - with the difference that the two people lying on the bank are covered with a tarpaulin.

The internal action in retrospect

In retrospect, only the events up to the accident and the subsequent death of Yella and Ben are revealed as real (when and what exactly it occurs remains open), whereas the main part turns out to be Yella's dream, a kind of hallucinatory rescue vision. In narrative terms , the first is the framework and the second is the internal story .

“They say,” says Petzold, “that the dying watch their lives pass by like a film in front of their eyes.” In terms of time, he locates Yella's vision in this very border area (between fainting and death), but reverses her perspective: Yella's gaze does not return, but forward; it is not the "lived life" that she sees, but the "other, dreamed, unlived life".

The terms that Petzold uses to define the framework and internal plot more precisely are “detachment” (or “love dissolution”) and “dream narration”. For the cinematic implementation it was important to him that the events of the first part provide the “material” for the second, “with which Yella enriches and forms her dream and constantly builds new constellations”. He calls some of this “material” himself: “The red color of a car, the orange that father cuts, the folder that Ben puts down for you, the suit that he wears that day.” An important part of the “ Materials ”is also money, material and immaterial: the bundle of banknotes that Yella's father wanted to give her for the probationary period and that she rejected, but which she then miraculously finds at the precise moment when she needs it; the amounts that Ben told her during the drive: the 25,000 for the rescue of the company (exactly the amount that Philipp then gives her too much to examine) as well as the 80,000 and 2,000 from their bankruptcy estate (which they then put in their first negotiation discovered on the company's balance sheets).

Details like these need not necessarily appear unreal to the viewer; strange and irritating but maybe, like the fact that Yella's travel bags survived the accident unscathed and that they are washed ashore right next to her, that the clothes that Yella wears on arrival in Hanover are not only dry but clean - and much more. An important part of the “dream narrative”, which surrounds it like a second frame, is more than “strange”: her two-time encounters with the family of the Dessau entrepreneur. Before she “haunted” him to blackmail him, she stopped in front of his house and watched the family for a while - a kind of premonition and only explainable with the rules of dream logic, because Yella has just arrived in Hanover and is seeing the house therefore in a place where it is not "in reality". Something similar happens to her when she is waiting for the entrepreneur with the others at the last business meeting: Suddenly she sees him behind a pane of glass and recognizes from his appearance not only that, but also how he killed himself - a premonition that already has the character of a person Vision within Yella's vision and which consequently shows her the way to the place where he is actually found dead: in the water.

The water is also part of a recurring motif : Yella's gaze into a treetop, the sound of wind and water, the croaking of a crow. This is the first time she wakes up from her faint lying on the bank, and she reappears several times later. If one follows the internal action under the assumption that it is real, these moments appear as if (caused by the accident) Yella's sensorium was disturbed for a short time; at the same time, she seems isolated, as if she had fallen out of the world for seconds. However, if one knows that the internal plot is unreal, the meaning of these moments is also reversed: to moments of truth in which reality breaks into Yella's dream. Petzold calls it “deathly silence” in his script.

Petzold connects the moment that finally brings Yella back to reality with a sensory perception: the sound of the "brutal cobblestones" while driving over the old bridge. However, he changed one detail. On the first trip, Yella defends herself and takes the wheel, on the second she just sits there motionless. “You don't fall into the same river twice,” comments Ekkehard Knörer in the taz . "What was almost no fault of your fate one time is a verdict the second time, which Yella accepts without resistance."

Origin and influences

According to Petzold, the idea for Yella came up in 2001 while working on Toter Mann , when he was filming a scene on an Elbe bridge. It occurred to him that the story of Toter Mann “could also be told the other way around, not from west to east, but vice versa. That one leaves the ruins of industrial society in order to find connection in the West, in modern capitalism . ”At the time, he and Nina Hoss talked about modern capitalism - and especially about the lack of“ new images and new stories ”from it , with whom he first worked in Toter Mann . And they returned to the place of their conversation 5 years later, where the film Yella begins.

That the names of the protagonists of both films, Leyla and Yella, are anagrams , continues Petzold, he only became aware of "in the middle of writing" the script. Michael Althen says that Petzold borrowed the name of the main character from Yella Rottländer , the actress in Wim Wenders ' Alice in the Cities ; Hanns-Georg Rodek adds that there is an echo of the Arabic “Jalla” (“Move!”) And points out that Yella is doing just that with her walk from east to west and that she spends a lot of time in moving cars next to the hotel, the “second home of the uninhabited”.

Nina Hoss praised the fact that Petzold gave enough time to be able to approach a character, be it in preliminary talks or during filming. He is also open to change. She portrayed Yella as less self-confident than she appeared in the script: “She had a lot more strength than how I ultimately played it.” She also came up with a biography for Yella, not least because it was in Petzold's films "Not everything is said".

As far as the reference films recognizable in Yella are concerned, according to Ekkehard Knörer, Petzold dared to create a “seemingly impossible combination at first glance” with a horror film and a documentary , but attests to him that it has succeeded in an “almost ideal-typical way”.

According to Knörer, Petzold himself acknowledges the influence of the documentation, which extends “down to the smallest detail”. This is “Not without Risk” (2004), a film about private equity negotiations by Harun Farocki , Petzold's dramaturgical advisor in Yella and even co-wrote the scripts in other of his works. With him, too, according to Petzold, he had thought about which images could be used to describe modern capitalism, and they had agreed that they wanted to break away from both the “locusts” and the still popular “clichés of the fifties Years ". It was not without risk that he saw and talked to his actors about it and obtained Yella's negotiation scenes from the material in the documentation .

Knörer sees a “barely concealed remake” of Herk Harvey's Dance of Dead Souls (1962) in the framework of Yella . Petzold himself counts the horror classic among his “formative films” and admits “similarities” such as falling from the bridge, the sound of the crow, the protagonist's impaired hearing and others. Basically, however, Yella has "not that much to do" with the dance of the dead souls , because in the horror film someone is "called from the realm of the dead".

The literary model for Dance of the Dead Souls is explicitly named as a possible source of inspiration in the film reviews : Ambrose Bierce 's short story Incident on the Owl River Bridge , in which a man, standing on a bridge, hallucinates his rescue in anticipation of the imminent execution . Hitchcock is also referred to several times, especially Marnie . Petzold, who describes himself and his cameraman Hans Fromm as a “Hitchcockian”, confirms this: he had even shot the entrance scene at the Wittenberge train station in the Marnie style , but later discarded it. Another reference film he sometimes thought of while filming was Bonnie and Clyde .

The composer Stefan Will , who has been working with Petzold for years, originally wrote a theme for the film, which was not used, however, in favor of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and David Ackles ' Road to Cairo (interpreted by Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity ). Will commented, "The film works without the subject I wrote for 'Yella'."

The shooting took place from May to June 2006 in Hanover and Wittenberge.

In Germany, the film reached around 77,000 moviegoers.

The ghost trilogy

Petzold is described as “the leading German director of ghost films ” in one of Yella's film reviews , and in another as “the most subtle horror filmmaker in the Berlin republic”. In apparent contrast to this, however, it is also said about him that he is concerned with a “keen observation of the present” and with grasping “what is special about reality”. In a comparative essay on the ghost trilogy (not originally planned as a triptych ) , which includes Yella Die Innere Sicherheit and Gespenster , Jens Hinrichsen summarizes both in the statement that Petzold's “ghosts” are “paradoxical figures: somehow out of this world and yet archetypes of our time ”.

The places where Petzold's films are set are described as often as the characters. Sometimes both are brought together, such as Christian Buß, who points out that Yella and Gespenster have something in common, would show “people without a center in a city without a center”. It is striking how often the descriptions of the locations are connoted with the “ghostlike” in Yella's analyzes alone : “Ruins of the construction of the East”, “orphaned prosperity zones of the West”, “ghost town”, “picturesque desolate”, “fallow”, “ inanimate ”,“ non-places ”. At the same time, it is said that Petzold's films went “through Germany with open eyes”, so that one “recognizes the country in a way that one wonders where other films are actually looking”. The characteristics that Johanna Schwenk ascribes to the characters are similar: on the one hand, they defy “complete deciphering”, on the other hand their stories are “impressively topical”; the protagonists are “travelers, homeless and invisible” and yet “people in the present”.

When Petzold himself asked why he refused his characters a home, he initially replied with the counter-question where this home was. For him, coming home is a process and not a recallable feeling; American country music , westerns , film noir and Melville films also told of the "unfulfilled longing for the place where you can finally lie down".

Ekkehard Knörer brings the etymological aspect into play when he thinks that Petzold's films revolve around the “word field of the homeland, the secret and, last but not least, the uncanny, which is so important for German ideologies”. He continues: "Because ghosts, as characters that cross the line between life and death, are the embodiment of the uncanny, Petzold's films in the search for present-day diagnoses have increasingly become ghost films." His analysis leads to the conclusion: " For him the ghost is not a force of nature, but the effect of a thoroughly disenchanted world. "


Yella was received positively by German film reviews. Nina Hoss rightly received the Silver Bear, and Devid Striesow shows an enormous versatility. Both, and more often Hoss, were said to be precise.

Horst Peter Koll from film-dienst pointed out that the first appearance of a brittle, low-tension plot is deceptive, because beyond this visible plot, behind the surface, lies the mystery and magic of the work in a cinematic narration with images and sounds. The viewer should listen "for something outside of the obvious perception, something that pulls, calls, tempts and warns at the same time." In the lyrical, well-composed film, Petzold is a virtuoso of his means. He observes reality precisely and uses it as a starting point for “mental journeys into the form of possibility”. Martina Knoben wrote in epd Film that the film was exciting from the start. "The mastery with which Petzold tells his stories in pictures is always breathtaking."

Michael Althen from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung recommended watching the film a second time because "suddenly all the irritations no longer ask questions, but give answers when the ghostly beauty of the film reveals its true face." Petzold is not about criticizing capitalism, he says Do not look for clichés and the illustration of prejudices, but have a real interest in the industry and look at Germany and the present with open eyes. “It is as if something were brought into focus in 'Yella' that otherwise always remains blurred.” Hanns-Georg Rodek's review in the world revolved around similar questions . According to the capitalist stereotype with cylinder and cigar and Michael Douglas' performance in Wall Street, Petzold brings the picture up to date: a world of virtual reality and bubbles. While Yella dreams the deceptive dream of many from the East, the dream of a good job, the West man does not believe in it, but has no other dream than to get a lot of money. "Because there is no better way to describe this country at the moment, Yella comes at the best possible time." Christian Buß from Spiegel Online praised the "wonderful mystery thriller about two of the most mysterious things in life: love and money." Yella is again a typical Petzold -Film that came along “so quietly, so artistically and so little demand for authenticity” and yet captured the “nervous vibrations in the country” like hardly anyone else. He lends corporeality to the ghostly, incorporeal sphere of risk capital management.

Fritz Göttler, Süddeutsche Zeitung , stated: "Everything unreal, but completely true to reality". The viewer's uncertainty about the level of a clearly drawn reality on which one is currently moving is typical for Petzold and an “incredibly exciting, pleasurable experience” in Yella as well . Daniel Kothenschulte from the Frankfurter Rundschau found the dialogues remarkable and called the scenes about business negotiations “fantastic”, “discreetly […] weird”. In film history, Yella is one of the most ingenious remakes (namely of the dance of the dead souls ) because it revives the spirit that stood behind the original: to discover the supernatural by filming the "world of things". For the Cinema , Yella was n't up to Wolfsburg , but still cast a spell.

Jan Schulz-Ojala from Tagesspiegel had a mixed opinion . Although he saw “brilliant minutes of the cinema: for the head, for the chugging heart, and even the diaphragm is sometimes addressed.” Just because of the plot, the film could be profitably as a “beautifully wildly conceived and extremely disciplined pamphlet mapped and framed, so read anti-capitalist and anti-all German ”, with resigned losers in the east and dead steel and glass buildings in the west. The problem with the work begins with the attempt to lay a metaphysical layer on top of the clear, realistic plot and to mystify the film. The overly clear conclusion is gross, because it removes the “dramaturgical barbs” for the audience “without leaving any residue”. The film "as smooth as the smoothness it denounces".




Review mirror


Rather positive


  • Der Tagesspiegel , September 12, 2007, p. 27, by Jan Schulz-Ojala: I dream of Germany

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h i j (PDF; 2.0 MB) Yella press release [1] (last accessed on April 27, 2014)
  2. a b c d e f Ekkehard Knörer: If no song sleeps in all things . In: die tageszeitung , September 13, 2007, p. 15 [2] (last accessed on April 27, 2014)
  3. a b c d Michael Althen: We are all ghosts in paradise . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , September 12, 2007, p. 33
  4. a b c d e Hanns-Georg Rodek: Love in times of risk capital . In: Die Welt , September 13, 2007, p. 29
  5. Interview with Nina Hoss in the daily newspaper , September 13, 2007, p. 16: Ein Spielendes Kind (last accessed on May 1, 2014)
  6. a b Condemned to perpetual motion . Interview with Christian Petzold in the taz on February 15, 2007 [3] (last accessed on April 27, 2014)
  7. a b Interview with Christian Petzold: You don't want to fall in love . In: Spiegel of September 10, 2007 (last accessed on May 5, 2014)
  8. a b c Fritz Göttler: Feeling in a cold dream world . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , September 12, 2007
  9. a b c d e f Christian Buß : Zombies while gambling . In: Spiegel Online , September 12, 2007
  10. Interview with Christian Petzold in Tagesspiegel of September 12, 2007, p. 27: We have stars without a sky (last accessed on May 1, 2014)
  11. cf. CD booklet for Edition Filmmusik - Composed in Germany 04: Stefan Will. Normal Records ( STEFAN WILL ( Memento from April 27, 2014 in the Internet Archive )).
  12. ^ Yella at , accessed on April 5, 2013
  13. Yella in the Lumiere database of movie attendance figures in Europe, accessed on April 5, 2013
  14. a b Johanna Schwenk: Empty Spaces - Resonance Spaces . In: Film Studies No. 63, 2012, p. 9 (last accessed on May 5, 2014)
  15. Jens Hinrichsen: Im Zwischenreich first published in: film-dienst (last accessed on May 5, 2014)
  16. a b c d Martina Knoben: Yella . In: epd Film No. 9/2007, p. 38
  17. a b Daniel Kothenschulte: From the life of the locusts . In: Frankfurter Rundschau , September 13, 2007, p. 37
  18. a b Jan Schulz-Ojala: I dream of Germany . In: Der Tagesspiegel , September 12, 2007, p. 27
  19. a b Horst Peter Koll: Yella . In: film-dienst No. 19/2007, pp. 32–33
  20. Cinema No. 9/2007: Yella