It's summer. One endless, sexy party under the open sky. Tina and her friends are living the dream of a whole generation of decadent Berlin-party-kids. But after one excessive night she's haunted by a mysterious ugly creature in nightmares she has. The only person she talks about her fears to is her psychologist. His advice is to confront her fears and to reach out to the creature. At first Tina refuses but after she hears about her parents' plans to put her in a mental hospital she starts talking to the creature. She slowly realizes that the creature is an incarnation of her fears and that it has the same feelings she does. Afraid of being called a freak she starts hiding the creature in her room. After a while she even gets close to it. It's almost like a relationship with a wild stray animal. For the first time in her life, it almost seems as if Tina has the courage to be herself. But then her parents and her friends see the creature...Written by
Mind the strobe! (and beware of sordid, surreptitious sound frequencies)
I watched Der Nachtmahr as part of the Glasgow Youth Film Festival, and enjoyed it very much. Depending how you look at it, it's a monster film or a coming-of-age drama. The film blends both in a smooth way, which introduces clever twists and fresh takes that will appeal to fans of both genres.
Carolyn Genzkow delivers a striking performance that clearly marks the many stages in the struggles of Tina, the protagonist, against the challenges of growing up alienated and misunderstood in 2010s Berlin. Commonplace locations come across as eye-catching visuals because of the lavish cinematography, matched by a booming club soundtrack. Likewise, it's always a pleasure to see Kim Gordon on screen, and an even greater one to hear her voice (the Sonic Youth vocalist has a minor role in the film as an English language teacher discussing William Blake with her students).
Der Nachtmahr is one of those films that don't give you a fully rounded, unequivocal plot with a nifty moral message attached. It requires you to think about it and come up with your own interpretations. That's what makes it so enjoyable to watch: the characters, situations and outcomes are very powerful, and fun to explore as you put them together to understand their significance.
If you're expecting flashy CGI peppered with jump scares, or schmaltzy self-help masquerading as fiction, you won't find it here. Der Nachtmahr is a poetic, low-key movie about monsters, whether real or perceived. The dangerous sound frequencies it warns you about in an introductory disclaimer are probably no more hazardous than those in Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, but be careful with the flickering lights of the club scenes: a friend of mine came along and had to leave after five minutes to get some paracetamol. And he's not even epileptic (it was just a petit mal migraine, though, no more).
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