Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | October 8th, 2021
The Girl and the Spider (Ramon Zürcher/Silvan Zürcher, 2021) 3 out of 4 stars.
With precise compositions and minimal narrative, The Girl and the Spider (from brothers Ramon and Silvan Zürcher, The Strange Little Cat) takes place over the course of a few days as a woman moves out of one apartment and into another. Though shot in Bern, Switzerland, the film never offers a distinct impression of the outside world, keeping us mostly firmly locked inside. It’s an apt metaphor for the internal focus of the main characters, all of them prisoners of intense self-involvement. No matter where we live in this modern world, our bubbles follow.
No one seems as lost in her own thoughts as Mara (Henriette Confurius, Narcissus and Goldmund), who has come along with her soon-to-be ex-roommate Lisa (Liliane Amuat, Those Who Are Fine) to assist with the move … sort of. Mostly, Mara just stares off into space or makes asocial comments unrelated to the conversation around her. Her anomie might exist because she and Lisa appear more than just roommates, a truth assumed but never confirmed, beyond the fact they both, in the course of the film, share a herpes blister. Their interactions alternate between sweet intimacy and pure annoyance. Good riddance, but I’ll miss you terribly.
Lisa’s mother, Astrid (Ursina Lardi, Dreamland), hovers in both locations, accompanied by her Jack Russell Terrier, whose occasionally amusing shenanigans break up the waxing and waning tension (he loves grabbing sponges). She spies a romantic opportunity for herself in the head handyman, Jurek (André Hennicke, Iceman), who returns her interest. Small moments resonate beyond their meaning, glances and gestures more powerful than words. Existential ennui has never looked quite so charming.
Back at the original apartment lies the spider, lurking in the space below. Well, there’s an actual spider in the new building, one whom the characters allow to freely crawl over their hands and arms, unafraid and rather taken with it. But over in the original quarters—where Mara will remain once Lisa departs for good—there live two similarly twentysomething women, also roommates, one of whom, Nora (Lea Draeger, All of a Sudden) enjoys trapping unsuspecting men in her lair. Just as Mara develops a new crush, Nora snatches him away.
How does it all add up? The gently intriguing anecdotal structure slowly weaves its web, pulling us into its elliptical story. Dreams and visions, memories and more all collide in an evocative mix. Relationships form and break apart, or never quite form and melt away before coalescing. People talk, other sometimes listen, the whole assembled in a series of beautifully designed set pieces. Nothing much seems to happen, yet the images remain long afterwards, like a tantalizing vision of quotidian strangeness. The spider lets us go at the end, but barely.