There’s not as much going on in Axiom as the film itself seems to think. It aims high with its dissection of a young German man’s rather elastic relationship to his own sense of identity, but meanders through its runtime without hitting enough targets. It’s even ever so slightly maddening, because this feature from writer-director Jöns Jönsson has all the necessary components present and accounted for, but something appears to have gone amiss in the assembling.
Julius (Moritz von Treuenfels) is, on the surface, a personable and accomplished young man. At least, this is the impression he exudes (rather determinedly). Without giving too much away, there’s something shaky about his achievements, sense of self and general demeanour. The truth lies beneath the gloss, although it doesn’t appear to be that revelatory or compelling.
Quite why Julius needs to use his flexible version of the truth to exert control over both himself and his surroundings isn’t probed, and, from a viewer’s perspective, this is less than satisfactory. An audience doesn’t need to be spoon-fed, but there’s not a lot to work with. It doesn’t help that Julius is neither sympathetic enough for the audience to root for his redemption nor enough of a scoundrel for them to champion his downfall. If anything, he comes across as petulant. Just how anyone might be charmed by him is a little baffling. This isn’t von Treuenfels’ fault; he does what he can with an underdeveloped (and not especially engaging) character.
Julius keeps his contrivances small, although he’s a little sloppy in their construction. He’s not a conman in the typical sense, and there’s no malice behind his actions, but quite why he bothers is a mystery. Axiom tries to keep things ambiguous, but it seems to have as little insight into its main character’s mindset as its audience will.
Axiom does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2022 coverage here.
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