Hildesheim-born filmmaker and writer Philipp Eichholtz made his foray into cinematography with his satirical rap video, Do My Own Thing (2005), before releasing his first feature length film, My Data and I (2009), a contrasting project dealing with the issues of data protection and mass surveillance. Several years later, Eichholtz wrote and directed Love Me! (2014), another sharp change of direction for the versatile filmmaker who offers audiences a strikingly innovative interpretation of the classic bildungsroman narrative. He presents a refreshingly raw and energetic tale of a rebellious young German girl, Sarah (Lilli Meinhardt), who experiences an entanglement of psychological conflicts as she navigates her late teenage years.
Eichholtz’s character-driven narrative carves a unique place for itself among the hackneyed slew of European coming-of-age filmic tales of the last few decades, presenting a nuanced portrait of the spirited protagonist’s struggles with her romantic, familial and monetary conflicts. The film possesses a raw, unpolished quality in its circumvention of the glossy sensationalisation typically attributed to cinematic portrayals of adolescent turmoil, instead imbuing Sarah’s experiences with a sense of unruly, chaotic frenzy which emerges from the film’s opening scene. The viewer is introduced to Sarah during the midst of her fiery breakup with her boyfriend, Markus (David Brizzi), a scene which brims with the authentic, zealous hostility pervading most acrimonious separations – and ends with Sarah’s laptop shattered into pieces after being thrown out of a window during the couple’s skirmish.
Fee Scherer’s exquisitely dexterous cinematography lends the drama a lively, spirited quality with its swift camera movements that allows one to become immersed in Sarah’s indefatigably tumultuous experiences, all catalysed by her decision to temporarily rent out her apartment – at a ridiculously low mensal rate of €350 – in order to replace her defunct laptop. Sarah encounters the kind yet substantially older Oliver (Christian Ehrich) at a computer repair store where she attempts to get her broken laptop fixed, before embarking on a “fling” with him that unsettles her protective father, Dieter (Peter Trabner), at whose flat Sarah temporarily resides with his pregnant partner, Natascha (Eva Bay). A significant portion of the film’s success can be attributed to Lilli Meinhardt’s spectacular acting adroitness as she embodies both Sarah’s mature femininity in her interactions with men, as well as her tender childlike juvenility which reveals itself when she is cocooned in her father’s arms.
At the core of Love Me! is a meditation on the difficulties of human alienation – both from others and from oneself – as seen from the perspective of a vulnerable and defiant young girl who fails to distinguish between love and pain while continually making foolish decisions with good intentions. Eichholtz adeptly creates a intricate protagonist who burdens others with her youthful immaturity while enriching their lives with her (imperfect) presence.