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.
Filming began in Berlin, Germany, and eventually moved to Melbourne, Australia, where Teresa Palmer finished her scenes. Immediately after, she began filming on Hacksaw Ridge (2016) in Sydney, Australia. 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 »
What would be the worst thing I could ever do to you? Don't worry... I would never do it. We are a team.
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Assuredly directed, stylish and incredibly tense thriller
I caught this movie at a preview screening, not knowing much at all, and was extremely impressed. Berlin Syndrome is a superbly taut thriller that takes a well worn scenario and thrillingly reinvents it.
Perhaps in the hands of someone else, this would've been a disposable B movie, or perhaps even something as over the top as I Spit on Your Grave, but Shortland ensures the focus of the film is on character. Captive and captor are never, ever two dimensional. Both Teresa Palmer and Max Reimelt deliver powerful and stunningly complex performances. What separates the film from other kidnap thrillers is how sympathetic and normal Andi, the captor, is. He's charming, erudite and curiously rational, only harming his captive in circumstances where she tries to escape. He's a hopeless romantic, who resorts to crime for fear of a spark shared between two people dissipating. Reimelt channels all these emotions with admirable subtlety.
Palmer rarely gets to use her native accent in films, having appeared recently in Hacksaw Ridge, Lights Out and Warm Bodies. With brown hair, what appears to be no make up and a mild mannered fragility, she's totally affecting in the role, by far the most impressive I've seen her. What's especially impressive in the film is its distinctive style. Minimalist score, gorgeous editing and cinematography, and great use of the location of Berlin all point towards a director who is wonderfully assured in the mood and tone of the story she wants to tell, and it works terrifically to engross you in the story. Equally, Shortland proves to be a real master of tension - my screening was audibly gasping multiple times throughout the film.
The elements that work in the film are so terrific that it's a shame narrative problems begin to occur around the 2nd act. Moments that don't ring true for Palmer's character, and logical inconsistencies (particularly towards the very end) took me out of the story when previously I'd been unwaveringly engrossed. It's somewhat inevitable that the audience often scrutinises the actions of captives in films, but there are moments that are truly frustrating.
Even so, Berlin Syndrome is a confident work, an unbearably tense and stylish thriller with a terrific art-house aesthetic and two extremely compelling characters (matched of course by terrific performances.) It reaffirmed my faith that Australian cinema is alive and well (even if the setting is Berlin).
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