1991 Directed by Percy Adlon. Starring K.d. Lang, Rosel Zech, Chuck Connors.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 1, 1994
Singer k.d. lang makes her acting debut in this hauntingly beautiful movie about dislocation and the search for identity. Filmed in 1991, Salmonberries never had much of a theatrical release and is only now having its first run in an Austin theatre (although it's already out on videotape). Set primarily in the frozen northwest reaches of Alaska, the stunning cinematography by Tom Sigel creates an appreciative difference in the experience of viewing Salmonberries on a theatrical screen rather than home video. Written and directed by German filmmaker Percy Adlon (Sugarbaby, Rosalie Goes Shopping), Salmonberries may be best understood in relationship to his most internationally successful film Bagdad Cafe. Both films are set in remote locations and focus on the emotional dynamics between two strong-willed women from distinctly different backgrounds. Named Katzebu after the town in northwest Alaska where she was discovered as a baby abandoned in a box, lang plays a young woman who works on the Alaskan pipeline. Androgynous, inarticulate, and impulsive, Katzebu looks for her biological roots in the town's little library and finds herself falling in love with the librarian, Roswitha (Zech, who is best known for her title role in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Veronika Voss). Roswitha is an East German expatriate who retreated to Alaska 20 years ago, after her young husband was shot down while the couple escaped across the Berlin Wall. Both women are certifiable eccentrics but, through a series of episodes, each woman helps the other come to terms with the past. As for their future together, Roswitha rejects a sexual relationship because she's “not that way” yet the sexual tension between them is palpable. What the two women share is a sense of dislocation and anomie. The effect of watching them in this spare Alaskan environment is visually haunting though what is expressed, both verbally and thematically, is essentially vague. Contributing to the film's haunting quality is its deft use of lang's song “Barefoot.” Also on board as a character called Bingo Chuck is Rifleman Chuck Connors (that's where he's been all this time). Despite lacking a certain clarity of expression, the flavor of Salmonberries lingers long on the palate.