Told in elliptical style through a series of chapters (many only minutes or even a few moments long), this is a chilling study of domestic abuse.
Philip Gröning portrays what seems to be an unremarkable provincial family. The father is a police officer but not a boorish or macho one. He dotes on his daughter and laughs when his wife beats him at arm-wrestling. Only slowly does his self-loathing and capacity for violence become apparent.
The bruises we see in passing on his wife's arms, back and torso reveal how viciously he is treating her. What makes this family tragedy so unsettling is the detached, sometimes banal style in which Gröning approaches his material.
The wife's dependency on the husband – and need for his approval – increases as the abuse continues. The scenes of family intimacy and contentment seem grotesque given the underlying misery which neither spouse is prepared to acknowledge.