Thursday, July 13, 2017

Movie Review: "Berlin Syndrome" (2017)

Director: Cate Shortland
Year: 2017
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 56 minutes

An Australian photojournalist on holiday in Berlin begins a romance with a local school teacher she met in the city. After spending the night with him, she wakes up locked in his apartment unable to leave and unsure of his intentions.

"Berlin Syndrome" is directed by Cate Shortland and is based on the Melanie Joosten novel of the same name. It stars Teresa Palmer as an Australian photojournalist named Clare, who was working in Germany but is now on a personal journey of self-discovery. One day, she strikes up a conversation with a German man named Andi, played by Max Riemelt, who works as a school teacher. The two hit it off instantly and begin a steamy, fast-paced romance. She eventually goes back to his place where they have sex. After spending the night, Clare wakes up in the morning and Andi is gone. She also realizes she is locked inside his apartment. When he returns, he plays it off as a forgetful accident. The next day, however, he gives her the wrong key, and Clare isn't exactly sure of his intentions but must assume they are no good. 

This is a tense, dramatic thriller with a few horror elements scattered about for maximum effect. It all starts off innocently enough as Clare meets a seemingly nice, handsome, charming man who is interested in her. It turns out that this man, one who leads an outwardly normal life beyond the walls of his apartment, is actually an obsessive and creepy psychopath. Cate Shortland makes an interesting directorial choice as much of the movie is spent building Andi's crazy and cold but equally likable character. Shortland and screenplay writer Shaun Grant examine the duality of man within the character of Andi as he goes through his average days teaching, going to the supermarket for groceries, and visiting his father all before returning home where he is holding a woman hostage...a hostage he refers to as his girlfriend.

Max Riemelt's Andi and Teresa Palmer's Clare start out as the perfect couple having fun with no strings attached but Clare quickly winds up in the most hellish nightmare scenario imaginable. We don't know much about Riemelt as an actor, but he is eerily and threateningly fantastic in this role. Much of what he does is very unsettling, especially considering he can be pleasant and agreeable one moment and can fly off the handle in a fit of rage the next as he taunts, toys with, and torments his victim. Palmer puts on an excellent and transformative performance in her own right as a woman trapped in such a perilous situation. She never knows if she will be hurt, raped, or killed by this obsessive, manipulative psychopath. Clare is forced to survive by whatever means necessary and does some unthinkable things in order to do so. Because the film takes its time building tension between its characters, there are a few moments where the audience is able to think of things Clare hasn't yet tried in order to gain her freedom, but then again, we aren't in her situation so we can't assume.

"Berlin Syndrome" left us engaged and on the edge of our seats throughout its run time. We think it is a stellar, eerie, taut, thrilling, borderline scary movie with excellent performances. Well done!

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 76%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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