It seems disingenuous to call Fraulein a film when it’s more like a glossy fashion magazine layout. Everything happens inexplicably, beginning with young Ana (Marija Skaricic) arriving at a cafeteria overseen with an iron fist by fiftysomething Ruza (Mirjana Karanovic) and ending with Ana’s departure from a hospital for destinations unknown. No reason is given for why Ana is in Zurich because none seems to matter to director Andrea Staka.
Ana, Ruza, and Mila (Ljubica Jovic), a waitress at Ruza’s cafeteria, are three women from different generations who are defined almost exclusively by the permanency of their sour pusses. Because they’re all from the former Yugoslavia, the audience may glean that their agonies stem from whatever it was they went through in the past (ostensibly during the Bosnian War), but what do these women suffer from in the present beyond varying degrees of reticence?
Staka seems to feel that a displaced narrative reflects political displacement, but her vagueness scans as posturing. Ana exists to remind Ruza of all that she’s missing out of life, but this lesson isn’t conveyed through a mutual understanding of their shared suffering as women or former Yugoslavs but guiltily accepted by Ruza after learning that Ana is dying of leukemia.
Mila gets the only interesting scene, admitting to her husband that she doesn’t care to rebuild a house she no loner wants to return to, but even this moment barely qualifies as characterization. Like the upcoming Ballast, Fraulein almost entirely shuns backstory, coloring around the lives of its characters with ostentatious style (in this case, fuzzy-wuzzy visual vibes and music tailored to each character’s generation) and hoping audiences won’t mind filling in the blanks.