“Punish Me” is an interesting new film, a sado- masochistic German drama. The performances of the actors is what makes this movie one to keep an eye out for. Kostja Ullman (Summer Storm) and Maren Kroymann set the screen ablaze with astounding acting.
The part of Winkler is played by Ullman. He is a 16 year old juvenile delinquent who is under the observation of a very stern parole officer, Elsa Siefert (Kroymann). Seifert is driven and without compassion. At 49, she is unwilling to compromise. She cares for those in her charge but she does allow them to overstep themselves to any degree whatsoever. As she realizes that she is not getting any younger, she bends a bit and her professionalism allows some small holes to enter. Her daughter, who is now grown, is leaving hoe and her marriage is dissolving. She looks for something out of her ordinary life; something that is intense enough to give her spirit.
Jan Winkler is set to fill her loneliness. He is young and he is obsessed and volunteers to subjugate himself sexually to her. Elsa knowing that no good can come from this enters into an arrangement with Winkler and together they explore the forbidden and taboo. A woman of her age, she feels, is deprived of any type of sexuality and so she abandons reason and knowingly and willingly enters a sado-masochistic affair with a 16 year old. It is not enough that Winkler is young but she is also his parole officer.
The story is basically about the keeping of a secret. In their secret world, Elsa and Winkler can be themselves while being both divided and undivided at the same time. The two break boundaries. There is both lust and revulsion and a myriad of themes crop up. The movie deals with age and transience and pain, both physical and mental. It deals with distorted issues of self-acceptance, power and its rejection and abandonment, about betrayal of one’s own ideals and about initiation and the need for a strong experience. The relationship of the two brings all these conflicts into play.
We get to look through a peep hole at forbidden lust and our voyeurism sucks us into the world of the two. We see the nakedness—especially the inner nakedness of two people. We are transgressors like the two lovers as we watch what we should not see. We also se what age can do to bring about the quest and the need for change. Worthlessness becomes mythical or does it become empowering? Without the reproductive impetus and the lack of obligation to fulfill it and without familial approval being necessary, we see that we can proceed to do whatever we want. Approval is not necessary and we have freedom without compromise. What a powerful way to look at life….and ourselves.