Nika Lubitsch’s 7th Day flows like your favorite television drama. It’s chapters are easily divisible by the mock news clips she provides to give you a quotient of interconnected episodes from a series about a woman on trial for murdering her husband.
Thalheim, 38, is charged with having stabbed to death her husband, the notary Michael Thalheim, 48, last February in Berlin. Michael Thalheim had been under police investigation for allegedly embezzling 9.6 million Euros worth of clients’ funds.
If Dorothy Parker were a PR agent living in modern Germany, she would be 7th Day’s protagonist and narrator, Sybille Thalheim. Both women share a sardonic sensibility about the situations they are placed in (I am thinking of Dorothy’s short story, “But the One on the Right” ). Unfortunately, Sybille is not at a dinner party but at her murder trial. She shares her interior monologue in court, half-heartedly listening to the lawyers arguing her case, revisiting the events that lead her here.
The one on Sybille’s right might be Ulli Henke (former lover-turned-friend-now-defense lawyer). She speaks (thinks) freely about her first meeting with Ulli and the first night they spent together. As she describes it, it was “such a wonderful and uncomplicated relationship.” A summer romp that would evolve into a friendship at least a decade old.
Then again, maybe the one of her right is Michael Thalheim, the man who would become her husband. It is Ulli who introduces her to “HIM” (Michael), who she describes as his complete opposite — “Laid back and reasonable,” she says. She thought he was “cute” and goes as far as to say (comparing Michael to Ulli): “Unlike our (Ulli) relationship, it did not start with a bang, but slowly and quietly. I felt as I were coming home at last.”
The two “rights” is just one of the engaging relationships presented in the story. Many of the others are presented after the trial’s end. But that is also the challenge of reading 7th Day. It challenges your sensibilities — How much is too much to be farfetched? and How much is just a little too much coincidence and convenience?
Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo comes to mind. Regarded as a classic, the discriminating observer cannot ignore that the story pushes the boundaries of coincidence: Kim Novak’s character happens to resemble the woman depicted in a painting, who happens to have a tragic backstory, and then Jimmy Stewart’s character happens to catch a glimpse of Kim Novak’s character, leading the movie’s conclusion (neatly wrapped up in Kim Novak’s confession).
However, you accept the events unquestioningly as “truth” because you have become invested in the characters and it is more important to understand why things happened as they did. This is the same for 7th Day. It is divided into two books and an epilogue. While Sybille Thalheim narrates the start of the second book, it is a couple of magazine reporters that tell the bulk of the story now. They go to great lengths to reveal the circumstances that lead up to Sybille’s situation and you accept each coincidence because you have become invested in her story and you want to understand why.