The Ground Beneath My Feet Review
There are definite Hitchcockian vibes about writer-director Marie Kreutzer's The Ground Beneath My Feet, which follows a woman pushed to the edge of her sanity through an over-commitment to work. It should come as little surprise then that Kreutzer took inspiration from Hitchcock’s Marnie, framing the story as a psychodrama about the relentless gerbil-on-wheel performances asked of anyone hoping to reach the upper echelon of the corporate ladder.
Valerie Pachner stars as Lola, a young ambitious business consultant working tirelessly to complete a large project she believes will gain her a long overdue promotion. Almost everything in her life bar a relationship with boss Elise (Mavie Hörbiger) is about work, until older sister Conny (Pia Hierzegger) attempts to take her own life. However, despite being her guardian Lola treats Conny as little more than another task that has be checked off during the day, concerned more about how it will look to others and the possibility she could inherit similar mental health issues.
The harder Lola pushes herself to meet the pending deadline of her project, the more she seems to be losing grip of her own sanity. Kreutzer plays with this destabilisation to tease our own perception of events although never straying far from the sober realism of Lola’s office-based work environment. Mostly it remains rooted in drama territory, occasionally threatening to break open into something more tense and gripping, but the pacing never quickens the heartbeat too intensely to take the narrative into unexpected areas.
Lola is a character becoming increasingly detached from herself, due to a combination of living to work and existing within a company that is more concerned with the balance sheet than the people affected by their ‘streamlining’ measures. Pachner fits the mould well, the corporate stillness of her face increasingly betrayed by the emotion welling up behind her eyes. It’s a performance filled with nuance and confirms she is likely to be a force to be reckoned with in years to come.
The colour-drained photography and detached worldview of Lola are unfortunately matched by a script that also remains a little too distanced. Pachner carries the film on her shoulders appearing in almost every shot but, despite her good work, is unable to bridge the schism between audience and character created by the script. It throws up a number of good threads in discussing capitalism, mental health, sexual harassment and the difficulties of succeeding in a male-dominated environment, although nothing is investigated thoroughly enough to leave its mark.
There’s a frustration that comes with watching The Ground Beneath My Feet because you can see many of the ingredients are there to transform it into something more memorable, yet it never quite comes together. Still, in the current VOD hell we are all currently trapped in it stands out as worthwhile rental option, and will no doubt appeal to the arthouse crowd looking for something other than Kevin James, John Travolta and Bruce Willis career dead-enders.
The Ground Beneath My Feet will be available to stream on MUBI from September 25.