If you enjoy tightly wound atmospheric thrillers, you’ll love these movies in which body heat runs high and nerves hang by the thinnest thread. All three feature distinctly independent approaches to the concept of a deadly love triangle, making the best of noir tropes and reviving the richness and dark flourishes of classic genre films.
Thou Wast Mild and Lovely (2014)
Don’t be fooled by the quaint title. This gem from director Josephine Decker is a nervy, sensuous portrait of a young woman and her possessive older husband. The couple’s bucolic life is upturned by the arrival of a young farmhand. Decker picked up the camera after starring in several micro-budget films by Joe Swanberg, whom she in turn casts here as the alluring other man.
Sun Don’t Shine (2012)
Like Decker, Amy Seimetz is an undeniable rising talent on the US indie scene. In this compact thriller, a young couple goes on an impromptu road trip with unspeakable contents in the trunk of the car, then gets tangled in an even deeper web of romantic jealousy. It’s a masterful study in microscopic moods and tensions. With beautiful, breezy cinematography and Kate Lyn Sheil’s riveting lead performance, it’s a hell of a ride.
This is a great time to dive into the work of German director Christian Petzold, whose new film Undine is now in cinemas. In this lush, slow-burn thriller, Laura (Nina Hoss), a woman with a complicated past, falls for a younger man, Thomas (Benno Fürmann), hired out as her husband’s chauffer. Petzold’s characters are often torn over money and loyalty. Hoss, Petzold’s collaborator on other noir-inflected films (like Barbara and Phoenix), gives a performance that’s equally passionate and calculated, as Laura plots her way out of the loveless marriage.