A passionate holiday romance leads to an obsessive relationship, when an Australian photojournalist wakes one morning in a Berlin apartment and is unable to leave.


Cate Shortland


Shaun Grant (screenplay), Melanie Joosten (novel) | 1 more credit »
3,611 ( 597)
1 win & 23 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Teresa Palmer ... Clare Havel
Max Riemelt ... Andi Werner
Matthias Habich ... Erich Werner
Emma Bading ... Franka Hummels
Elmira Bahrami Elmira Bahrami ... Jana
Christoph Franken Christoph Franken ... Peter
Lucie Aron ... Elodie Zadikan
Nassim Avat Nassim Avat ... Aaron Hurwitz
Malin Steffen ... Swedish Girl
Thuso Lekwape ... Billy Dharma
Morgane Ferru ... Jesie Lamarque
Lara Marie Müller Lara Marie Müller ... Silke
Elias Esser Elias Esser ... Boy 1
Claude Heinrich Claude Heinrich ... Boy 2
Nadine Peschel Nadine Peschel ... Mother


While holidaying in Berlin, Australian photojournalist Clare meets Andi, a charismatic local man, and there is an instant attraction between them. A night of passion ensues. But what initially appears to be the start of a romance suddenly takes an unexpected and sinister turn when Clare wakes the following morning to discover Andi has left for work and locked her in his apartment. An easy mistake to make, of course, except Andi has no intention of letting her go again. Ever.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for disturbing violent content, strong sexuality, nudity and some language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The apartment that Clare is trapped in is based on a real one, in the Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood of Berlin. Director Cate Shortland: "It was a 50- or 60-apartment building with [only] about eight apartments occupied. But all of our young people are flocking there. It's kind of a beautiful idea, wanting to get out and explore, and hoping the artistic and cultural dynamic of the city will rub off on you. It's a place with a lot of community feeling, but in winter it's also an incredibly monstrous, grey, miserable place." [The Guardian. June 2017] See more »


It is improbable for Andi to liberate his impaled hand from a screwdriver without any sharp edge the way he did. See more »


Andi: What would be the worst thing I could ever do to you? Don't worry... I would never do it. We are a team.
See more »


Gokyuzu (bio-mix)
Written by Özlem Ylmaz & Pat Jabbar
Performed by Kasbah Rockers feat. Özlem
Courtesy of Barraka El Farnatshi Prod.
See more »

User Reviews

A taut psycho-sexual thriller about captivity and madness
1 May 2017 | by CineMuseFilmsSee all my reviews

The primal terror of captivity appears in everything from fairy tales to horror films, and female captives are particularly popular tropes for vulnerability to sexual abuse. Most captivity stories are framed into a binary where the captor is an evil ogre and the captive an object of sympathy. One of the many reasons the Australian made Berline Syndrome (2017) stands out as a psychological thriller is that it defies these conventions by portraying the captor as an almost normal professional guy and the captive as sexually complicit in her captivity.

The plot line is simple, linear and familiar. It opens with the wide-eyed wonder and excitement of young Aussie backpacker Clare (Teresa Palmer) arriving in the uber-cool city of Berlin. Like thousands of others, she is looking for adventure in a city famous for its architecture and nightspots and she is captivated by the beauty of the city. She meets German native Andi (Max Riemelt) and is immediately attracted to his Aryian good-looks and charming smile. He is a school teacher and thus trustworthy, so they hook up for a night of erotic passion and he leaves for school in the morning with her locked in his fortified, soundproofed, and isolated flat. Just an oversight, she thinks, but it happens again the next day. When she discovers her phone SIM card removed and finds an album of bondage photos the real terror begins.

The story itself is unremarkable, but the acting, filming, and directing make this a high-tension act from beginning to end. The key to this psycho-sexual thriller is establishing the 'normality' of the film's perpetrator so that we feel he is just another lovely guy. Once we are taken in by his charms, the film paces out in tiny incremental steps how Clare's discomfort changes to fear and then terror. The photographic style accentuates sharp close-ups on terrified eyes against out-of-focus backgrounds and an almost hand-held style of filming to emphasis the instability of the situation. Teresa Palmer is brilliant in showing the transitions from initial innocence and country-girl naivette to the palpable eroticism of domination and the stark realisation that she may not survive. Co-star Max Riemelt is her match in every way, evoking the charm and normality of an urbane teacher who is attentive to his students and respectful of his father. To the outside world, there are no warnings. Then slowly he reveals his distorted grasp on reality and deranged intentions to keep Clare as if she were a mere possession like a doll or a pet. His plans are not entirely sinister as he believes that love will blossom even in captivity. But in this fairy tale, the handsome prince morphs into a monster, a meta-reference to the millions of domestic abuse scenarios in which modern-day princesses still find themselves.

Many thrillers cannot sustain dramatic tension for a whole feature film but in Berline Syndrome it keeps rising until the climactic scenes when unexpected events overtake audience expectations. At times the pace slows down to create a sense of inertia in captivity but the ending is swift and satisfyingly conclusive. This is an engaging thriller that echoes parental warnings about strangers with nice smiles. Preying on such fears taps the right nerve to make any backpacker a little bit more careful.

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English | German | Russian

Release Date:

26 May 2017 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Berlin Syndrome See more »

Filming Locations:

Berlin, Germany See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$22,916, 28 May 2017

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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