Monday Editor’s Pick: Transfer (2010)

by on February 14, 2012Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Fri Feb 17 at 4:00 and Mon Feb 20 at 4:15, 8:45 at Film Society of Lincoln Center [Program & Tix]

Film Comment Selects,” FSLC’s invaluable annual fest running thru March 1, offers this German sci-fi export, which has made the rounds at niche festivals but rarely set foot on American soil.

Tambay A Obenson, who hasn’t seen the film, sure is excited for Indiewire. He also highlights the current shortage of English-language reviews – a problem these NYC screenings will surely amend. Alt Screen as usual, will try to keep this page updated with the latest advance word.

From the Film Comment program notes:

Taking its cue from John Frankenheimer’s 1966 film Seconds, and adding a post-colonial spin to its near-future setup, Transfer gives new meaning to the concept of timesharing—if you substitute living bodies for apartments. The twist? While the elderly clients who engage the services of the Menzana Corporation are wealthy white Germans, the host bodies into which their personalities are downloaded are those of young African refugees who willingly lend out their corporeal residences for 20 hours a day in the knowledge that their families back home are being handsomely compensated in exchange. When Anna and Hermann Goldbeck, an elderly but still devoted couple, opt to submit to the transfer procedure for a trial period due to Anna’s terminal illness, they find themselves inhabiting the gorgeous, perfect bodies of Apolain and Sarah—whose personalities remain intact but offline until the wee hours, when they are granted a daily four-hour window to return to consciousness. Transfer’s premise affords a light edge of social satire as Anna and Hermann negotiate the social awkwardness that their new bodies present, but Damir Lukacevic’s smooth, seductive mise-en-scène maintains a quietly unsettling tone, and soon enough troubling questions of race and exploitation begin coming to the fore as the film’s doubled protagonists wrestle with the moral dilemmas of this arrangement. As Apolain puts it: “They’re using us like clothes. In the morning they put us on; at night they take us off. They bought our bodies but they must never own our souls.”



In the meantime a few critics have caught the film…after the jump.


Germain Lussier for Collider:

Transfer is like Being John Malkovich meets Primer. It’s a German film about an elderly couple who decides to transfer their conscious into a pair of young, virile African people. The twist, though, is that while the technology works perfectly during the day, every night, the original person wakes up and is their old self for four hours. So during the day, the black couple has the personalities of the elderly white people who paid to be them but at night they are themselves. This creates all types of moral dilemmas, impersonation scenarios and security breaches. Director Damir Lukacevic flawlessly cuts between times and the actors give incredible dual performances as each couple must figure out not only what is best for them, but for their now connected other too. Though it sounds complicated, Transfer actually presents its broad ideas as a very focused and entertaining love story while never being too flashy. Featuring slick production design and an amazing score, Transfer is going to be revered for some time.



Jason Whyte talks to Lukacevic for eFilmCritic:

How did this project come to fruition? If you could, please provide me with a rundown, start to finish, from your involvement.

“Transfer” is based on a short story written by the Spanish science fiction writer Elia Barcelo. I always liked the stories written by Stanislaw Lem or Phillip K. Dick. You descreibe the future but what you actuall mean is to describe the hopes and the fears of the presence. What I liked about the story was that I could combine a couple of aspects of filmmaking, such as the visuality, the political aspect, the philosophical aspect, the surreal and the thriller. After I read the short story by Elia Barcelo, I knew I had to make this film. But for Germany, this a very uncommon film project and genre. It took me three years to realize it.
What was the biggest challenge in the production of the movie, be it principal photography or post-production? What was your favourite moment of the process?

The identification of four people/four souls inside of two bodies was an artistic challenge for all of us. I wanted to achieve that the audience can recognize in every scene which character he or she is looking at. I wanted to achieve this through every aspect of filmmaking. But first of all it was a big challenge for the actors. I needed to find two young actors who are black, young, beautiful and have the sensitivity to play both young Africans and old white Europeans inside the bodies of two Africans. I was searching on three continents for those actors, in Africa, in Europe and in North America. Finally I was lucky to find them after a very long search in Los Angeles; B.J. Britt who plays Hermann & Apolain along with Regine Nehy who plays Anna & Sarah.
Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world? Did you have inspirations from filmmakers for this film in particular?

Concerning science fiction films, there was “Seconds” by John Frankenheimer, “Coma”, “Gattaca”, “Soylent Green”, A Scanner Darkly”, “Dr. Jekyll und Mr. Hide” and “The Dead Zone.”



Marina Autunes for Quiet Earth:

As good stories go, the drama here isn’t insular and Lukacevic takes advantage of the story to explore all sorts of nooks and crannies about humanity, individualism, slavery, the moral use of technology as well as issues of racism and ageism. And that’s just on the surface! Floating around in the ether of further observation are also concerns about the future of civilization when the physically fit are farmed for their bodies when the rich require a new physical form. What implications will this have on human development and society?
Transfer is strong in ideas and solid in execution… an excellent slice of “cerebral sci-fi,” one more interested in characters and ideas than in showboating.


Ayelet Dekel for Midnight East:

Set at some point in the non-specific future when science and technology can provide the key to eternal youth and vigor, for some. Hermann and Anna are an elderly couple whose love still burns strong, but their bodies are beginning to fail. For a million Euros they can purchase the bodies of Apolain and Sarah and through a technique called ‘personality transfer’ can have the use of these fine young bodies for 20 hours a day, while Apolain and Sarah regain the use of their bodies for 4 hours, when Hermann and Anna are asleep. Can personality be defined, captured, transferred to another body? Will it still remain the same? If my ‘personality’ is transferred to another body, will I still be me? And what about the ‘personality’ of the body I inhabit – is it also still there, albeit suppressed, will the two personalities somehow inevitably interact? The film raises ethical and philosophical questions, yet at the same time is a sensitive and moving love story, with an element of suspense

Megan Arellano for Washington City Paper:

The film doesn’t dwell on the hedonistic: At night, Apolain and Sarah struggle to find meaning in their short, captive time together; during the day, Herman and Anna confront racial biases. Every element of the movie is seamlessly laced, each detail crafted perfectly. And it’s utterly suspenseful without spilling a drop. Since I can only hope there won’t be another horrible remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers for a while, consider Transfer part of your new required sci-fi viewing.


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