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Berlin Syndrome

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.

Guy Lodge:
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.

David Rooney:
... 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.

Luke Buckmaster:
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