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DVD Review – The Mermaids

2 min read

The Mermaids is the second short lesbian film from TV director Petra Clever, and follows invisible German math student Nikki (Ania Niedieck) as she tries to expand the brackets of her life. The film focuses on friendship, acceptance and making the invisible visible, whilst remaining an archetypal love story at heart.

 The film tells the story through the narrative perspective of Nikki, who as advised by her psychiatrist joins her local American football team – the Mermaids. But as a stereotypical math geek, Nikki’s skill in the field of contact sport is minimal, provoking harassment from her coach Jessi (Meike Gottschalk) who she later witnesses engaging in steamy Sapphic activities with the quarter back Tina (Mira Herold) in the club’s changing room. Choosing not to bring the subject up, Nikki throws herself into playing and devising team strategies using her mathematical talents in statistics and probability in the creation of logistical game plays.

The combination of interacting with her teammates on the field and observing such scenes off field fortify Nikki both mentally and emotionally, internal changes that filter through to her exterior,  namely her visibility. However the youngster faces further challenges, as uncovering the activities of her coach and teammates also unveil feelings of her own towards Tina, who dishearteningly is otherwise engaged. Nikki’s unrequited feelings are doubly frustrated when her romantic rival Jessi continually refuses to acknowledge her tactical game plans and intends to prevent Nikki from playing in the team’s upcoming match.

The cinematography of The Mermaids is clean and aesthetically pleasing; with clear color association and connotation, with particular regards to Nikki and her isolation caused by the perception of being invisible, conveyed through the character’s platinum blonde hair, pale clothes and washed out features. All of which clashes strongly with the aesthetics of the life she is trying to fit into, illustrating her struggle. The strong initial difference in cinematography then heightens the impact of Nikki’s development and transformation displayed in the film’s closing sequence.

The story at times seemed a little odd and underdeveloped, the evocative notion of the protagonist’s struggle with invisibility is somewhat undermined by her easy involvement, and acknowledgement within the Mermaid’s team. And character situations and portrayal were also a little unbelievable at points, despite a satisfactory performance from the general cast. However it should be remembered that the film is only thirty-eight minutes in length and aspires to cover a lot within that time scale. And so by forfeiting plot depth, Clever makes The Mermaids an easy watch without the need of intense audience engagement.

A definite recommendation for those of you looking for a lesbian film that avoids the typically dramatic portrayal of the coming out process and personal discovery, focusing in stead on a brief but classic narrative and plot.

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