Embodying the mercurial nature of romantic relationships in all their contradictory facets—hope and despair, joy and cruelty—writer-director Katharina Lüdin’s penetrating feature debut interrogates love and art with a singular expressiveness. At the same time that she’s rehearsing an emotionally difficult play, in which she’s co-starring with her ex-husband, middle-aged Merit (Jenny Schily) is navigating heartbreaking terrain in her everyday life: a rapidly deteriorating relationship with her girlfriend Eva (Anna Bolk), whose feelings of rejection and unrequited love are beginning to consume her. Lüdin further widens the frame to take in the complicated lives of those who are affected by the disillusionment of these two women, including Merit’s increasingly alienated son and his wife. Moving between unnerving restraint and full-throated feeling, Of Living Without Illusion is an unusually perceptive film reminiscent of the work of fellow German director Angela Schanelec in its abstracted visual approach, yet with a direct, almost Bergman-like intensity as it illustrates the sometimes unbridgeable divides between lovers—and between reality and pretense.