Berlin can be such a transitional city for many people. Backpackers treat it as a destination for unbridled hedonism, the likes of which is not seen in many other cities. Even those who opt to move to the city will find that it can be a solitary place, since the typical Berlin party and tourist lifestyle is not sustainable. So many people leave Berlin once the enchantment has worn off, leaving the population of the city in a constant state of flux. Clare (Teresa Palmer) is an Australian backpacker who would dearly love to leave Berlin, if she wasn’t imprisoned in the apartment of the man she’s just met in the type of swirling, heedless fashion that can happen while on holiday.
Director Cate Shortland made her feature debut with 2004’s Somersault, which married dreamy visuals with heftier emotive themes, and Berlin Syndrome delivers her most sure-footed work yet. Berlin is certainly not depicted as dreamy, and Director of Photography Germain McMicking has given the city a stark, austere beauty, which (fittingly) seems ominous at times.
While not quite in pursuit of unbridled hedonism, Clare is still travelling alone, with the imprudent decisions that can often occur in this situation. It was not a foolhardy decision for her to go home with Andy (Max Riemelt), since for the film to be effectively chilling, sympathy for Clare could be minimised if there was a true sense of recklessness.
And it is chilling, more so when the action shifts to her confinement. The canvas of the story is reduced, though not minimised, and there can be easy comparisons to mainstream horror (which should help the film to find a wider audience). While the outline of Clare’s jeopardous circumstances might seem like something that has been done a million times before, rarely has it been done so intelligently.
Berlin Syndrome is released nationwide on 9th June 2017.
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Watch a clip from Berlin Syndrome here: