Film: Berlin syndrome
Director: Cate Shortland
Cast: Teresa Palmer, Max Riemelt, Matthias Habich, Emma Bading
Never get into a stranger’s car and never accept food offered by those you don’t know about. These are warnings we have always heard growing up. However, in today’s world, ordering food and cab service online has become commonplace. What if our worst fears came true? That’s what Berlin Syndrome is about.
Clare, a young tourist backpacking on her own, meets Andi, a puzzling yet charming English teacher in Germany. They hit it off, and in a while, she ends up in his apartment that’s in a secluded neighbourhood. It only takes a while for her (and us) to realise that she’s walked into a trap, as Andi has no plans of letting her go. The glass windows are reinforced, and anything she can use to escape is locked up.
As the film happens mostly within the four walls of Andi’s cloistered house, it makes the claustrophobe in us squirm. As it progressed I couldn’t help but get reminded of the 2015 award-winning film, Room. But the similarities soon stop when we get to see Clare getting ‘adapted’ to her new environment. She acts delusional, and even consoles Andi when he’s down, as she develops Stockholm syndrome (hence the title).
Shortland, in order to make up for the scenes inside the apartment, balances it by showing us a good deal of Andi’s social life. He’s an introvert, who refuses offers from other women, and even considers a friendly touch by a female colleague to be so ‘dirty’ that he ends up washing his hands. But that doesn’t stop him from picking up the women he prefers, who’re mostly foreigners as his father reveals. The mood of the film is maintained well with some wonderful music, and scenes like the one in which Clare tries to escape from Andi’s clutches.
These give a little shimmer of hope in an otherwise dark film. While the eerie tone, scenes of physical abuse and gory sequences make it an interesting watch, Berlin Syndrome does make the great performances of the leads no good as the character development lacks clarity. One moment, Clare tries to breakout and get away from her captor, and the next, we see them having consensual sex. We also never get to understand why Andi became an apathetic sociopath. Berlin Syndrome, for the most part, is still creepy and disturbing enough to be a treat for fans of the genre.