System Crasher: A mesmerising, eye-opening scream for acceptance
Systemsprenger (system crasher) is the unofficial, controversial, name given to children who slip through the cracks of the German Child Protective Services. They cannot be placed in a home because they cannot assimilate. Nora Fingscheidt’s mesmerising Berlinale feature takes its name from such children. She illuminates the caveat that it is not the child who is too difficult for the system to handle but rather the system that is ill-equipped to deal with cases that lie too far outside procedural norms. The film follows Benni, a troubled pre-pubescent girl who is tossed from one group home to the next due to her track-record of uncontrollable aggression.
Helena Zengel is a firecracker in her performance as Benni who, much like her character, cannot be contained. Her bold young eyes constantly reek of desperation and power that is remarkable for an actress of her age. This is in part aided by the soundtrack: it couples brilliantly with System Crasher‘s sense of agitation and pulsates to the rhythm of its racing heroine. Zengel not only commands the attention of the viewer but, once she has it, refuses to relinquish her control. Her chemistry with one caseworker, Micha (Albrecht Schuch), is imbued with truthfulness that highlights Fingscheidt’s virtuosity as an auteur.
Too, Yunus Roy Imer’s cinematography has a delicate potency which simultaneously caresses the delicate nature of the story and explodes with anger. He strikes a dynamic range of movement. At times the camera energetically chases Benni’s attempts to escape her fate. In other longer lingering shots, Imer cements the young girl stuck in a system that neither can handle nor truly wants her. The film’s visual palette is accentuated with pink hues which heighten the soft vulnerability of the tragic heroine. Yet, as the narrative progresses it is slashed with sharp red blood. The manner in which they convey Benni’s PTSD episodes as flashes quickly cut against fuschia-pink bursts of colour feels unique and simulates genuine jolts of unease.
Nora Fingscheidt’s script and direction are marvels. With System Crasher, she creates a powerful, tense and vulnerable portrait of a child and a system doomed to be incompatible with one another. She proves herself as a fierce directorial force to be reckoned with.
System Crasher (Systemsprenger) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch a clip from System Crasher (Systemsprenger) here: