Berlin Syndrome was one of the many films which premiered at Sundance that I wanted to see and now I’ve finally been able to do just that thing, and let me tell you this: it was worth the wait.
In this independent, psychological, semi-horror film we meet Clare, a young and aspiring Australian journalist who has come to Berlin to take pictures of the of the spectacular DDR architecture. During her trip, she meets a German English teacher with whom she hooks up. But when she wakes up the next morning, she realizes that that was a big mistake…
Teresa Palmer has never really been able to make me see her character on-screen rather than just Teresa Palmer. In I am Number Four she failed to amaze me, but I think that we all can agree on the fact that the whole film failed to amaze its audience. Even in movies like Hacksaw Ridge I never really found her to be good. I was, however, able to see some potential in her role in that film. And then Berlin Syndrome passed by. And by god was she fantastic. At first, I was still pretty skeptical, but after the first ten minutes, she had sold me. Palmer had a difficult task to become her character and she really did that well. For the first time in her career, I didn’t see her, but I saw Clare. And this acting job was far from easy. Clare’s a complex and multilayered character that undergoes quite some character progression and changes, which is to be expected when you’ve been held captive for more or less nine months by a psychopath who doesn’t even realize he is one and even denies the fact. The characters were by the way really good and well thought out.
The characters were the main focus of the film. It’s a real character study and if you’ve been following this blog, you probably know that I’m a sucker for character-focused films. The film set’s up Clare nicely by giving her a few character traits from the beginning. She’s open to new things and new cultures; she’s always willing to do something new. This character trait’s also the one that’ll bring her into trouble. At the moment she’s captured, however, the real character study starts. We’re looking at what isolation and loneliness can do to someone. And since everything’s handled so realistically it’s painful to see her suffer. Not only was it a character study on Clare, but also on her capturer, Andi, masterfully played by Max Riemelt. It was interesting to see a man with these psychological disorders and I liked that they also showed how he acted towards his friends/colleagues and family because just by those little conversations you could pick up that he’s a psychopath, but only because you already know he is one. His colleagues don’t pick up on it because to them it’s just another conversation with Andi, who just has some weird character traits. This character too had some real depth and it was captured wonderfully by Max Riemelt who managed to give a multi-layered performance.
The directing too was fantastic. Cate Shortland used a lot of close-ups with heavy focus to capture the isolation of Clare, but by doing that she also accentuated the amazing acting of Teresa Palmer. We were able to see what was going on in her head and that again proves how fantastic Palmer was. Shortland was able to create some very good tension which made the film a very edge of your seat film at times. Whilst this is a horror film, Shortland managed to create one without any of the horror clichés. There were neither jump scares nor a ton of gore; she was able to create tension with fantastic editing techniques and an intrusive soundtrack. Sometimes she breaks the tension up by having a slow motion montage, which gave the movie its needed breathing room. The realistic atmosphere set up by Shortland helped to create tension since it’s so believable and could happen to any of his while abroad.
I also liked that the film didn’t see its audience as stupid. It doesn’t take it’s time to explain what’s going on. They don’t explain the ideas Palmer has or how long she’s been there. There’s almost no exposition whatsoever and I loved that. It’s like a breath of fresh air in today’s movie industry which basically exists out of exposition. And it’s not hard to figure out what’s going on if you were paying attention, but if you were paying attention you’d have noticed that there’s quite a lot of foreshadowing in the beginning of the film, which is the only downside to this film in my opinion. I know that the character of Clare is naïve in the beginning, I get that, but there are so many foreshadow moments when Clare just should’ve gotten the hint, which she time and time again didn’t.
I loved this film. It’s one of the best film’s I’ve seen this year or at least that came out this year. The performances were stellar and so were the characters. The director too gave the film an artistic and realistic feel and that last part really helped to create tension. That’s why I’m giving this one a well-deserved A.
Images via: IMDb
Note: There won’t be two articles a week for the coming week since I’ll be having exams.