On an overcast summer’s day, Merle arrives at her lover Romuald’s villa, jacket and luggage in hand, to find the doors are locked. He had invited her to visit him in the south of France but seems to have headed off somewhere. She thus has to come to some arrangement with his uncooperative children, help celebrate Emma’s 13th birthday and put up with Felix’s impudence, the 16-year-old son who sees her presence as a provocation.
It doesn’t take long for the host’s absence to become barely noticeable. The plot centres on Merle, on her attempts to fit in, to take on this unexpected role as naturally as possible. In a particularly striking scene, she gets into an argument with the local baker, who refuses to give her a cake ordered for Emma’s birthday. Merle loses the battle of wills. When Romuald finally calls, she decides to side with his children rather than her distant lover, and quietly enjoys her breakthrough. With great empathy and subtlety, Nicolas Wackerbarth’s Halbschatten creates a portrait of a person ill at ease with being the centre of attention, in the glaring sunlight. Continue reading