"The Chambermaid" Sees Everything Review

An adaptation of a novel by Markus Orths, writer-director Ingo Haeb’s The Chambermaid is the most delicate and introspective movie about S&M that you will probably ever see. The German-language drama follows the titular chambermaid, Lynn (Vicky Krieps), as she goes about her very meticulously scheduled life. Lynn voluntarily spent time in an asylum; she says that she checked herself in, but won’t give up the details as to why. Now back out in the world, much of her life is spent obsessively cleaning rooms at the Hotel Eden--even the ones without guests--making her by far the hardest working maid in the business. Every once and awhile, she has bored, businesslike sex with her manager, seemingly only in order to make some feeble attempt at human interaction; other than that, she rarely makes eye contact or speaks a word with anyone other than her psychiatrist or her mother.

Because Lynn is so quiet and unassuming--the kind of person who one’s eyes simply glide over without noticing--she is the ultimate voyeur. While working, she searches through guests’ belongings, tries on their clothes and even hides under their beds to eavesdrop on their words and actions, living vicariously through those brief, clandestine moments. One day, from her place under the bed, she witnesses a liaison between a blonde, androgynous dominatrix named Chiara (Lena Lauzemis) and her customer. Intrigued, Lynn calls the number on the card that Chiara left behind and makes an appointment. What follows is an awakening for Lynn, not just sexually but emotionally, as she finally learns how to connect on a deep, intimate level with another person. Meanwhile, with each meeting, Chiara finds herself growing strangely fond of Lynn and her various eccentricities--whether it be her minutely scheduled life or her never-ending stream of questions for Chiara, as though she is totally struggling to understand how someone could live a life so seemingly free of restraint.

The Chambermaid is small in scope and low on action, but it has more to say about human relationships than films with three times the resources. It moves slowly and languidly but is shot in gorgeous, gauzy color that is pleasant to behold even when nothing seems to actually be happening onscreen. There is very little of the stereotypical S&M that one can’t help but now associate with Fifty Shades of Grey to be found here. Chiara doesn’t whip Lynn, or handcuff her, or lock her in a Red Room of Pain. The sex scenes do not feel exploitative or designed to titillate those audience members who may be eager to see two women have wild, rough sex. Rather, through their encounters, Chiara teaches Lynn how to let go of her inhibitions, both in bed and in life, and to embrace a less frightened and regimented existence. Their liaisons are intense, but because of the deep bond that begins to form between them with each encounter, not because of anything violent. The two lead actresses give remarkable and understated performances, with Krieps managing to earn the audience’s empathy and attachment even when doing odd, moderately disturbing things, like trying on a random hotel guest’s shirt and then sneaking under his bed while still wearing it as he comes through the door. As though she is a close friend in need of advice, you’ll be torn between wanting Lynn to connect with someone and live a fuller life, and wanting to caution her from becoming too close to someone who may or may not only see her as a client.

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES

The DVD release of The Chambermaid includes a short film entitled “Worlds Within” that deals with similar themes relating to the struggle for human connection.

"The Chambermaid" is on sale September 1, 2015 and is not rated. Drama. Written and directed by Ingo Haeb. Starring Christine Schorn, Vicky Krieps.

Oct
09
2015
Lee Jutton • Staff Writer

Lee attended NYU for Film & TV Production, but she now works mostly in PR. Her primary obsessions in life are Doctor Who, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Arsenal F.C. When not writing about things she's watched, she's running or kickboxing in preparation for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 

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