Mae sits in the entryway, staring at her late brother’s red high top chucks.
As the film Chucks opens, we meet teenager Mae Reimel (Ana Posch), roaming the streets of Vienna as an alienated punk with a bad attitude toward society in general. Mae has dyed her hair a bright carmine red and wears dark hand-me-down clothing highlighted by a pair of red high top chucks. As the film unfolds we discover the significance of them to the storyline (and title of the film). Mae hangs out with other punks whose main interest is going out at night and spraying graffiti on buildings, trains, or other places where they will be noticed — their protest against the establishment. Her main friends in this group are Jakob (Thomas Schubert,) an on and off college student, and Tamara (Steffi Reinsperger) who Mae likes to party with. Mae supports their activities by shoplifting cans of spray paint, and what little money they have is spent on cigarettes and large cans of beer. The group lives in abandoned buildings and tries to stay out of sight from the police. One evening, Mae and Peter are caught by security guards at a train depot where they have been spraying graffiti Mae is arrested but is allowed to work off her sentence by completing community service at an AIDS Center.
Paul trips over Mae, who is sitting in the stairway smoking.
At the AIDS center, Mae displays her usual flippant attitude toward the people there, but things change when Paul (Markus Subramaniam) literally falls over her while she is smoking a cigarette in a staircase, causing him to fall down to the bottom. Grudgingly she helps him pick up his things, while complaining about the inconvenience, yet managing to take one of his books. But Paul is very different from most of the people Mae has met in her life. He shows her no hostility the next day when he sees her again, is polite and well-mannered toward her, and wishes to become friends, even offering her another book. Mae, surprised by the unusual kindness, does tell Paul her name and they strike up a friendship. When Paul tells her that he is dying from AIDS, she remarks “how is that even possible these days with all of the available drugs?” Then Paul explains that he hit the jackpot: not only does he have the AIDS virus but he suffers from Hepatitis C. As the two get to know each other, their friendship develops into a full blown romance that occupies much of the second part of the film.
Mae considers her options in life.
All throughout Chucks, there are constant flashbacks to Mae’s childhood, the death of her older brother from cancer, and the time they spent together. A very poignant moment in the film is when Mae is at a poetry slam, and then changes the topic to tell her audience that includes Paul and her punk friends the story of her brother’s death and how she started wearing his chucks. Mae and her brother were very close, but when he passed away, Mae was given no chance to grieve — her parents didn’t even bring her to the funeral. Instead she spent time in the entryway of the house, staring at her brother’s pair of red high top chucks that their mother left there when she returned from the hospital, barricading herself in her bedroom for three days. When her parents arrived back at home from the funeral, Mrs. Reimel (Susi Stach) nearly tripped over Mae who was still in the entryway holding onto the pair of red chucks. She screamed at Mae and threw them at her. Furious, Mae gathered them up and began wearing them the next day in tribute to her brother. Mae’s estrangement from her mother is a continuing subplot in the film. The two still do not communicate well, and much of Mae’s attitude toward life and society comes as a result of this family dysfunction. At every meeting, Mae does something to shock her mother, who clearly does not approve of Mae’s lifestyle. A very sad moment in the film is when Mae and Paul are at her mother’s apartment for a holiday dinner. As the food is served, all seems well until Mae blurts out that Paul is dying of AIDS. Her mother slaps her in the face, and she slaps back. An upsetting moment that results in Mae and Paul going back into their own private world as Paul’s condition begins to worsen. It should be noted that Paul’s parents also had great difficulty in dealing with and accepting what happened to him. We never even see them nor do we see Mae’s father, who divorced Mae’s mother soon after their son’s death.
Mae and her friends live a punk life-style in the streets of Vienna.
Chucks – which was based on Cornelia Travnicek’s novel by the same name — is the latest in a series of films that explore how a relationship with someone having a terminal illness can be a life-changing experience for the person who survives. In this regard, Chucks has some interesting similarities, especially in its ending, to The Cure, another film made in 1995 where one of the main characters is afflicted with the AIDS virus, and a pair of chucks has an important place in the storyline. In Chucks, Sabine Hiebler and Gerhard Ertl have put together a tightly edited piece that packs an emotional impact as Mae deals with the tragedies in her life, and learns to cope with them. The impact of the cinematography is greatly aided by the decision to use a lot of different musical songs throughout in different styles and emotional intensities rather than a single score. Ana Posch gives a powerful performance as the alienated and outspoken Mae, ably contrasted by Markus Subramaniam as the calm and sensible Paul. Although the film does not explore new ground, it does tell a story that will keep you thoughtfully engaged while you watch it. In German with English subtitles. The film is not yet available in the USA, but hopefully that will change in the near future.
Paul wonders about the significance of Mae’s red high top chucks.
Mae reverently places her brother’s red high tops on top of a cabinet.
We see Ana Posch in her role as Mae wearing her brother’s red high top chucks in many scenes of the film. Although they would have been several years old according to the timeline of the film, Mae was shown doing her best to take care of them as seen in the still above. But with all of those years of wear, they would be well worn and frayed, like you see in the still below.
By the end of the film, her brother’s red high tops are well worn and the canvas frayed.
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