Pepperminta
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When you show up for a film festival, you never really know what you’re going to get. You may find smaller titles that are building up to a limited release (or even a wide release). Probably some heavy foreign dramas. Maybe some eye-opening documentaries. Even some noteworthy American indies. And there’s a pretty good chance that, every once in a while, you’ll find yourself sitting through a movie that’s entirely unlike anything you’ve ever seen before (and are likely to see again). For me, that movie was the Swiss film Pepperminta—the first film that I saw when I arrived at the Cleveland International Film Festival this year.

The festival staff member who introduced the screening of Pepperminta called it “interesting.” When pushed by anxious audience members, he added “polarizing.” And he was right. Pepperminta is the kind of movie that you could easily love or hate—depending on your tastes or your mood. But one thing is certain: it’s one of the strangest movies you’re likely to see.

  
 
Pepperminta (Ewelina Guzik) has always been different. Even as a child, the vibrant redhead was known to go against the grain whenever possible—which meant that she was often shunned by her peers and punished by her elders. But while most eccentric kids eventually grow into mature and generally conventional adults, the grown-up Pepperminta is pretty much just a bigger version of the young one.

Pepperminta lives in her own little world—a brightly-colored, magical world where the rules are very different. When she meets Werwen (Sven Pippig), a man whose mother keeps him locked up at home because he’s allergic to everything, she decides not just to befriend him but to heal him. In the process, she also meets androgynous Edna (Sabine Timoteo)—and she gets both Edna and Werwen to join her on her magically nonsensical adventures.

To be honest, I can’t really tell you what happens in Pepperminta—much less what it all means. What I can tell you, though, is that it’s vibrant and colorful and completely bizarre. Sometimes, it’s rather disturbing (and there are moments when it will most likely turn your stomach). At other times, it’s just harmlessly kooky. But, from start to finish, it’s a sensory overload of strange music and wacky visual techniques and Technicolor insanity.

Pepperminta is a fascinating character—a female Peter Pan with vibrant orange hair and a wardrobe to match. She’s completely free of inhibitions—which will sometimes be a little uncomfortable for us inhibited viewers. But her antics are so strangely fascinating that you might just find yourself caught up in the film’s hallucinogenic spell. In fact, though the film is in German, I often found myself so mesmerized by the bright, bizarre images that I completely forgot to read the subtitles (though, really, I doubt that it matters—since so little of it makes sense anyway).

In a way, Pepperminta feels like a feature-length OK Go video, complete with colorful characters and clever stop-motion animation. And, had it been a 20-minute short, it probably would have been absolutely brilliant. After 80 minutes of the same insanity, though, it does get a bit tiring—and you’ll most likely walk away feeling dizzy, confused, and maybe just a little bit stoned.

But Pepperminta is exactly the kind of movie that you’d expect to find at a film festival (and nowhere else). It’s perplexing and completely bizarre—but it’s definitely an experience that you won’t soon forget.

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