Andreas Dresen’s melodrama Cloud 9 stars Ursula Werner as a happily married seamstress in her late 60s who proves surprisingly receptive when 76-year-old client Horst Westphal makes a pass at her. The two begin seeing each other regularly, enjoying the feeling of having a secret and being desirable again. The level of sensuality and sexuality in Dresen’s simple slice-of-life can be startling at times, and either elevates Cloud 9 or ruins it, depending on how bothered viewers are by the sight of GGILFs getting it on. Repeatedly. In close-up.
But viewed with a forgiving eye, the fleshy sex scenes in Cloud 9 look touching and tender. And Dresen generates a fair amount of drama with Werner’s dilemma, as she struggles with whether she should confess her indiscretion to her husband. There are a few added wrinkles (pun definitely intended) in the way this story takes place among people approaching the ends of their respective lives, cursed with the wisdom and experience to know just how damaging the revelation of this affair will be. Dresen underscores this with a simple, purposeful style, using a lot of repeated shots to emphasize how the day-to-day routine changes, for better and worse, once Werner starts messing around.
Ultimately though, apart from the ages of the protagonists, Cloud 9 is a standard-issue infidelity story, complete with dialogue like “I didn’t want this, it just happened!” Granted, that line sums up a lot about the heroine’s life beyond her latent sex drive, but the repercussions to Werner’s actions come too late to elevate Cloud 9 beyond “quiet, spare, bittersweet foreign film”-dom. But perhaps that’s Dresen’s intention, to show that the problems of the elderly are just as dreary as everyone else’s—if maybe a bit saggier.