What We Wanted (2020) Review – Burning The Bridges


What We Wanted (German: Was Wir Wollten) talks about those dreams that are not governed by any logic or reasoning. They just tend to take place, originating out of nowhere, while you are asleep. Events and situations that you never imagined yourself into. You are forced into these unprecedented circumstances whether you like it or not. Many times you see yourself running away from the threats and often you are trapped with no place to go. There is a phase of obscurity, the fear of the unknown. You tumble, you fall, you get bruised, you get hurt, with a hope that one day you shall move to greener pastures.

An analogy can be drawn between these dreams that often break the rationale of a prudent mind and the uncertainty of events in life itself.

What We Wanted (Was Wir Wollten) is the debut direction of Ulrike Kofler, who is mainly known as the editor of films like “Die Wunderubüng” and “The ground beneath my feet.” She has also written the screenplay along with Marie Kreutzer and Sandra Bohle.

The Premise

Alice and Niklas have complications in conceiving and they almost are on the threshold of their breaking point when they take the advice of their therapist and go to Sardinia Island for a vacation. At this point they were not ravaged or traumatized by the news, but were weary of the whole excruciating ordeal. There seems a lack of enthusiasm in the way they approach their life now. They are vacationing on a beautiful island, in a luxurious resort but their mind is constantly stuck at that one thing they have always wanted.

An ideal happy family (according to them)  occupy their neighboring house. Human psychology has a knack of seeing in others what we desire. Alice saw Christl and Romed as a couple having kids and a jovial attitude towards life which she and Niklas clearly lacked. She didn’t notice the complications that came with them. Their young daughter often niggles Alice who always feels more vulnerable and naked in her presence. For Alice it is as if she is seeing her fears in a physical form. Slowly their fears upheaval and they visit certain grey areas that they never thought of witnessing in this lifetime. They experience a kind of pandemonium in their lives which they came to cure on this vacation. They are not really sure how to react to this situation. They had never prepared for such a debacle. There is a scene where Alice exclaims that how exhausted she is of the whole facade and how she just wants to be 45 or 46 and this whole tribulation of having children ends naturally. She accepts the fact that she won’t be able to stop this chase until and unless it happens naturally.

Can “Relaxation” Ever Be Forced

Alice observes some people doing yoga and says that she never really understood it’s functioning. She says that she can’t force relaxation into her system. The filmmaker makes sure to elucidate the uncertainty the couple are dwelling into. Even they don’t know how to tackle this new found curve of life and the screenplay makes sure to communicate the same to the audience. The trickiest part I believe was to showcase a lack of passion in the couple. It is so because an avid viewer can often mistake it as a lack of zeal in the filmmaker itself. The inability of the couple to create moments of excitement can be taken as an attribute of the film itself, and therefore can be highly misunderstood.

Ulrike Kofler does not shy away from infiltrating into a controversially flammable territory. Alice is often told to consider adoption as an option. She very clearly says that it is not what she wants. She says that she wants her cells in the kid. She tells how important it is for her to see herself and Niklas in their creation. She abstains from taking any moral high ground and avoids any clamorous approach.

What We Wanted is about burning the bridges. Those associations to one past that make no sense and are just detrimental to one’s well being. It is also about how hard it could be to do so. But when those bridges that were once the gateway to the days of yore become a torana to hell then one craves to cut all association with it. We never know that if it is the righteous way or not. Sometimes it becomes the only way to not feel like a loser constantly.

What We Wanted (Was Wir Wollten) brings with itself a sort of complexity that we also witnessed in “Marriage Story“. It might not be a great film but it surely deserves a watch specially for the first time director Ulrike Kofler.

This 2020 drama was the official entry of Austria in the best foreign film category.

What We Wanted (Was Wir Wollten) is streaming on Netflix.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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