Writer/director Andrea Staka's Das Fräulein
paints an exceptionally sensitive, multilayered, and richly textured portrait of a blossoming friendship between two adult women. Mirjana Karanovic
is Ruza, a Slavic émigré in her fifties, who years ago transplanted herself from her native Serbia to Zurich, Switzerland. Quiet, introverted, and stoic, she runs a canteen business in the city and trusts absolutely no one, building her life exclusively around income. She and her Croatian associate, Mila (Ljubica Jovic), are confronted with the sudden arrival of Ana (Marija Skaricic), a much younger Bosnian drifter, who enchants Ruza with her fresh spontaneity and zest for life, but still draws some coldness from the Serbian woman. Despite a shared ethnic background, Ruza initially insists on communicating with Ana in German and scarcely acknowledges their common cultural identity. Nonetheless, in time, barriers begin to recede, and a tenuous, delicate bond of friendship forms between the two women. Staka uses the bulk of the drama to explore this relationship in all of its nuances and complexities, conveying the women's inner emotional landscapes with an intelligent use of cinematic language and visual flourishes. Instead of simply using Zurich as a backdrop, Staka employs the city -- both cosmopolitan and yet somewhat distancing -- as one of the story's central characters.