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NEUROO-X, a German-Swiss-Chinese entertainment company group, stands for games that dissolve the boundary between reality and gaming). A new gadget, the myth-enshrouded RED BOOK, offers the ultimate gaming experience. The most secret longings of gamers are scanned by the engine and transformed into fantastic adventures. The conspiracy psychoses of users are the raw material for the storytelling of NEUROO-X. Marcus, Chief Development Manager of NEUROO-X dies shortly before completion of the RED BOOK. His lover Ryuko finds out that something terrible happened during testing of the game in China, and the deeper she submerges into the secret of NEUROO-X, the more she loses touch with reality. She neglects her son Walter, who logs into the game and disappears into the digital parallel world. The more Ryuko fights the corporation in order to rescue her son, the more she updates the narrative desired by NEUROO-X. Ryuko finds herself in a world full of demons, witches, knights and terrorists.
A Silly, Yet Somewhat Sterile Mishmash of Swiss and Japanese Culture
What is "Polder"? Initially, it is a movie about an unscrupulous corporation called NEUROO-X, which wants to transform every human being into a mindless user trapped in an even more mindless video game that simulates real life. It is up to Marcus, former employee of NEUROO-X, and his wife Ryuko to expose the schemes of the bad guys. If that is even possible; because they might be already part of the sadistic game. Furthermore, "Polder" is a multimedia experiment. When I watched the movie in my local cinema, I was invited to download the "Polder" App. The App played an audio file with a voice that put me in the mood for the movie. There also were background actors walking around the cinema. It was suggested that my visit to the movies was an illusion just like the illusions that would be depicted in the movie itself. It was a nice gimmick I suppose, but not really necessary. I'd rather talk about the movie itself.
So, what about it? "Polder" basically is a mishmash of Swiss and Japanese culture. If you ever wanted to watch a movie that features Wilhelm Tell's son Walterli, sweet lil' alp girl Heidi, creepy Sadako from the infamous j-horror movie "Ringu" and some random cosplayer with pink hair, this is your dream come true! Despite the movie advertising itself as "highly intelligent" and "incomprehensible", it's more trash than art-house. I mean, there's a character who looks like Friedrich Nietzsche behaving like Arnold Schwarzenegger! If that's not decidedly awesome, then what is?
I won't lie to you: This movie is a mess. It piles so many reality layers on top of each other, it gets ridiculous. In a way, "Polder" could almost be considered a parody of Christopher Nolan's pseudointellectual dream escapade "Inception". Nolan's movie is a self-indulgent mess, too, but not nearly as enjoyable. Although Polder is a Swiss-German co-production, it owes much more to Asian cinema with its elaborate tomfoolery undermining the very idea of art-house flicks. Movies like Tetsuya Nakashima's "Memories of Matsuko", Katsuhito Ishii's "The Taste of Tea" and Park Chan-wook's "I'm A Cyborg, But That's OK" come to mind.
Yet "Polder" has not mastered the childlike carelessness of its Asian counterparts. It still thinks too much, takes itself too seriously. It is concerned with conceptual questions like: "What does it mean to be human?" or "What is reality, what is fantasy?" How boring is that? Give me a break! Still, the German-speaking film scene needs movies like this badly; movies that dare to be silly. "Polder" might not be a masterpiece. It most certainly is a failed experiment. But as failed experiments go, this is one of the more entertaining ones.
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