Till the End of the Night: an Impressive but Flawed German Gender Fluid Film

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Till the End of the Night (Bis ans Ende der Nacht)
Directed by Christoph Hochhäusler
Written by Christoph Hochhäusler and Florian Plumeyer
Starring Timocin Ziegler, Thea Ehre, Michael Sideris
In German with English subtitles
In cinemas as part of the German Film Festival

Review by Barry Healy

Till the End of the Night has a number of features that retain the viewer’s attention: LGBTIQ+ themes, including gender fluidity, unfolding interpersonal relationships, a tense police undercover operation involving drug-gangs and superb cinematography.

From its opening moments, Till the End of the Night leads the viewer into a world in which superficial expectations are confounded. In the opening sequence we see in time-lapse a bare apartment transformed into the appearance of a lived-in space.

Is this the artifice of a cinema set being exposed before our eyes? Yes and no; the movie set is of a German police undercover sting operation being established.

Throughout the film sophisticated camera techniques emphasise the artificiality of the characters’ relationships. We hear people conversing while we watch their reflection in a glass door, we overhear distant conversations of people observing characters in front of us, we witness dialogue while faces are framed by mirrors. People are bugged and filmed by trailing cops.

At nearly every turn, the viewer is reminded that nothing is what it seems, that double-crosses are at hand, that what characters are saying is not necessarily what they believe and that disaster looms. For such an artful construction to work it depends on credible acting and an excellent script that holds true despite the camera’s gymnastics and the mastery of the soundscape technician.

The acting, especially the award-winning performance of transsexual actor Thea Ehre, is first-rate. One scene in which she mocks the compliant, flirtatious behaviour of women with men is particularly sharp.

The plot’s central conflict is the brutal and tormented relationship between the undercover cop, Robert (Timocin Ziegler) and his ex-male, now transitioning lover, Leni (Thea Ehre). We are left wondering whether, beneath the misery, there is a twisted, failed love at play. There is one stand-out sexual scene that symbolises their inability to satisfyingly connect.

However, between the flashes of brilliance there is a baffling plot, undermined by the implausibility of the clearly unstable Robert being tasked with a challenging police sting.

Till the End of the Night, despite, or perhaps because of, being built around duplicities, treacheries and shifting alliances, fails to fully engage. There is intrigue on screen, but the ambience remains cold; there is little to draw the audience to deeply care about the characters.

I am sure that many trans people will be thrilled by the unexpected finale. Unfortunately, that doesn’t lift the film to the level that it deserves.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s