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Berlin Syndrome (Cate Shortland, 2017) wr. Shaun Grant, prod. Polly Staniford, Angie Fielder, Aquarius Films, dp Germain McMicking; Teresa Palmer, Max Riemelt; psychological thriller; national release 20 April
This is a two hour film that should have been cut to 90 minutes, by leaving out the third quarter, which drags. The first 'act' is just right - exactly 30 minutes long - at which exact point we see the first evil glint in the villain's eye. After that it follows the formula of films like The Collector (William Wyler, 1965 - is there a term for this type of story? - abduction?) - tho there are several moments which stretch credulity: burning the body of a large Berliner doused with petrol in a dumpster in a domestic courtyard, and no-one noticing, for example.
Despite - or perhaps because of - its length, the film ties plot points up a bit too quickly for this aging viewer, decreasing the satisfaction of 'poetic justice'.
Not a pleasant experience. Great credit to Shortland. Many stars for courage to Palmer. 'Lift your game' to Riemelt.
In ... Shortland’s ... intensely elegant third feature, the ugly subversion of seductive exteriors is built into the film’s very narrative, as a heady, sexy holiday hook-up turns overnight into an abusive abduction — cuing a nightmarish game of sexual control and captivity, in which toxic masculinity calls the shots. Adapted from Melanie Joosten’s 2011 novel, this arresting, slightly over-extended conversation piece marks Shortland’s first foray into genre storytelling — though the film’s aloof tone and angular gender politics keep it in the art-house domain. Guy Lodge, Variety.
... audiences looking for the illuminating perspective of an intelligent woman director on the kind of sexual-captivity scenario that dates back to The Collector might come away disappointed from Berlin Syndrome. Driven by a compellingly internalized performance from Teresa Palmer as the conflicted prey, this is a case of expert filmmaking craft applied to a familiar story that becomes unrelentingly grim and drawn out after its masterful setup. David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter.
Like last year’s bolder, more ambitious and significantly smaller-budgeted thriller Observance, I got notes of early Roman Polanski, such as 1965’s brilliant Repulsion – though perhaps more in aspiration than achievement. Having the nous and discipline to pull off that kind of claustrophobic, oxygen-depleting, walls-coming-in psychological thriller is no easy task. Shortland makes it harder on herself with the travelogue-style setup, and through her choice of handheld-heavy camerawork from the cinematographer, Germain McMicking ..., which frequently cheats the film out of tight, interesting compositions. Guardian.
Garry Gillard | New: 6 April, 2017 | Now: 20 June, 2021