A highly admired maverick producer known for making incisive films on tight budgets, Ingrid Veninger has more recently emerged as a skilled director in her own right. “MODRA,” her first solo feature debut, is an entrancing character study that showcases her remarkable talent.
Veninger’s gift (revealed in her contributions to “Only” and “Nurse. Fighter. Boy”) lies in connecting strangers together under unusual and intimate circumstances and delicately mining the vicissitudes. In “MODRA,” we meet two restless teens who barely know each other: the sunny, quietly confident Lina (Hallie Switzer) and the intense yet vulnerable Leco (Alexander Gammal).
On a whim, Lina invites Leco on her summer trip to visit her extended family in Modra, Slovakia. The teens’ questionable motivations are not masked with any romantic pretenses. Lina simply wants a new travel companion after getting dumped by her boyfriend and Leco is just looking to hook up. In this way, the film begins with remarkable candor and sets the tone for an authentic portrait of teenaged self-discovery and desire.
The community of Modra and the hospitality of Lina’s family are captured with warmth and humor. Although the teens are mistaken for a couple, Veninger eschews holiday romance clichés and it soon becomes evident that Lina and Leco actually have little in common. But when events take an intimate turn, it sets off intense reverberations of actions and emotions that promise to have a lasting impact on their lives. A cousin to Linklater’s “Before Sunrise,” Modra offers an insightful perspective on Generation Y.
The film’s sun-soaked hues illuminate the teens as they wander old-world streets and endless meadows, while a cool folk-rock score complements the film’s meditative feel.
True to her fearless producing roots, Veninger takes risks, notably with a cast that consists entirely of first-time actors, many of whom are family. Most striking is her naturally confident direction and the way she gives characters and moments time and space to breathe. In a country where women tend to occupy the role of producer more often than director, Veninger’s ability to cross over is inspiring. [Synopsis courtesy of Agata Smoluch Del Sorbo/Toronto International Film Festival]