Films & Schedules

  • A Year Ago in Winter

  • Caroline Link

129 minutes

Production Company:
Bavaria Film/Constantin Film
Executive Producer:
Robert Cort, Scarlett Lacey
Uschi Reich, Martin Moszkowicz
Caroline Link, based on the novel Aftermath by Scott Campbell
Production Designer:
Susann Bieling
Bella Halben
Patricia Rommel
Roman Schwartz
Niki Reiser
Principal Cast: Karoline Herfurth, Josef Bierbichler, Corinna Harfouch, Hanns Zischler, Mišel Maticevic

Canadian Distributor:
Seville Pictures
International Sales Agent:
Celluloid Dreams

Tuesday September 0909:30PM ROY THOMSON HALL Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Wednesday September 1012:00PM RYERSON Best Bet Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

Polished, insightful and deeply affecting, A Year Ago in Winter elevates an often hidden family trauma to the level of timeless drama. Director Caroline Link, who screened Nowhere in Africa as a Gala at the Festival in 2002 and went on to win the Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language Film, continues to establish herself as one of Europe's strongest contemporary storytellers.

In graceful scenes, the film opens with the sudden, unexplained death of nineteen-year-old Alexander. Openly favoured by his parents and more quietly adored by his older sister Lilli (Karoline Herfurth), his passing leaves a devastating absence in the family. To contain her grief, his mother Eliane (Corinna Harfouch) commissions a prominent local artist to paint a portrait of her lost son and still present daughter. A striking and vital young dancer, Lilli resents the imposition, but relents. She begins visiting the studio of the strange, reclusive artist Max (Josef Bierbichler), where they are dwarfed by his dramatically oversized portraits. There is immediate friction between artist and subject, but as Max engages Lilli in probing conversation, trying to understand both her own soul and her connection to her brother, a unique bond develops. To their surprise, this friendship starts to unearth the pain that Lilli's upper-middle-class family has become so good at hiding.

Link favours an elegant, transparent style as a filmmaker, and this is a world of handsome families living in beautifully decorated homes. But as in Ordinary People, its American forebear, her film probes beneath the surface of comfort and stability to find characters grappling with the deepest loss. As an artist who has chosen a more bohemian life, Max can speak truths that Eliane has long suppressed, and challenges both mother and daughter. Herfurth is particularly arresting here; her unconventional beauty and steely control recall a younger Cate Blanchett. As she kicks and struggles against both her controlling mother and the probing artist, she finds herself confronting her family in ways she had been too afraid to face.

Caroline Link was born in Bad Nauheim, Germany, and studied at the Munich Academy for Television and Film. In addition to working on several German television series, she has directed the films Beyond Silence (96), Annaluise & Anton (99), Nowhere in Africa (01), which won the 2003 Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language Film, and A Year Ago in Winter (08).

Cadillac People's Choice Award