Dark Fortune

Finsteres Glück, translated as Dark Fortune, follows Eliane Hess (Eleni Haupt), a psychologist who gets called to the hospital late at night. Eight-year-old Yves (Noé Ricklin) was just in a car accident, which claimed the lives of his parents and siblings. Eliane’s personal life is falling apart. Both her daughters, Alice (Chiara Clara Bär) and Helen (Elisa Plüss) have become quite distant, she throws herself into this latest case and feels drawn to the boy.

As Eliane attempts to suss out the details of what caused the accident and how it has affected Yves, the boy’s aunt goes the legal route to get custody of her nephew. Eliane has discovered how the constant fighting of Yves’s parents has stressed the young boy out. As such, she is staunchly opposed to him going to his aunt and takes the child into her home. Eliane’s youngest daughter sees this as a bit of an intrusion but warms up to Yves. All the while, the legal battle for Yves tears Eliane apart, as she slowly uncovers more about the day of the accident.

Swiss writer-director Stefan Haupt adapts Dark Fortune from the Lukas Hartmann novel of the same name, and something has been lost in translation. The biggest drawback to the film is a distinct lack of stakes or urgency. The drama with Eliane and her daughters is weak and never really amounts to anything. Near the end of the movie, Yves is crying and the elder daughter, Helen, gets out of the car and starts running away. This comes out of nowhere and makes no sense, especially given how levelheaded and calm she has been the rest of the movie. She tells her mother that she just can’t take it anymore. What exactly it is that she can’t take is somewhat elusive. Is it the horrible stories of the cases her mom works on that is driving her mad? Is it how her mom connects with a stranger better than herself? The film gives the audience no clues as to what drives Helen, so what set her off is a mystery.

“Eliane’s personal life is falling apart…feels drawn to the boy.”

The rest of the characterizations are just as thin. Yves’s aunt is just a cartoon of rage when railing against Eliane and how she looks after the boy. There is no nugget of reality to buy into her wanting her nephew. Given the aunt only appear three or four times, she is not in Dark Fortune enough to have a motivation or a compelling arc. This makes what is supposed to be one of the big emotionally cathartic scenes be a hollow void of nothing, The whole film has this inert quality about it, failing to reel in the audience.

One of the culprits for this disconnect is the acting. Individually everyone does a decent enough job, yet they don’t mesh well as a whole unit. Haupt does not share chemistry with the young Ricklin, so her attachment to Yves does not come across very strongly. Neither does she comes across as authentic with Plüss or Bär, as they all feel like they’ve come in from different movies. It is not just Haupt though, as no one in the cast believably interacts with anyone else at any point.

The kicker here is that the movie is well shot. Tobias Dengler’s cinematography creates a full emotional range via the visual language of the film. Eliane opens the door to the laundry room and sees a backlight, via flashlight, Yves talking to a stuffed animal about his new family. Her cloaked in shadow and him this silhouetted figure with light engulfing him is a great visual metaphor for the core relationship of Dark Fortune.

“…Dengler’s cinematography creates a full emotional range via the visual language of the film.”

Eliane’s life is not what she dreamed, and she feels trapped. She thinks that Yves is someone that can help her feel like herself again; thus he is a light for her. Yves himself is a fun loving child, yet he lacks crucial details of his life. He cannot remember the accident very well, despite remembering other events that day (such as seeing the eclipse). Thus, he is represented by a humanoid figure, in this case, his silhouette yet does not appear whole. If the rest of the movie took this kind of care toward the characters and plot, this would be a much more enriching watch.

Dark Fortune is well shot yet lacks in a lot of other respects. The characters never seem to have a life of their own, the actors don’t share any chemistry, and the dramatic arc of the story fails to engage the viewer. The movie is not terrible, though it is not worth your time either.

Dark Fortune (2018) Directed by Stefan Haupt. Written by Stefan Haupt. Starring Eleni Haupt, Noé Ricklin, Elisa Plüss, Chiara Clara Bär, Martin Hug.

5 Eclipses (out of 10)

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