A locked room challenge
THE BERLIN SYNDROME ★★★
Directed by Cate Shortland. Starring Teresa Palmer, Max Riemelt, Matthias Habich, 16 cert, gen release, 116 min Cate Shortland, director of
Lore and Somersault, attacks a familiar story in her creepy, eerily beautiful third feature. The Berlin Syndrome concerns Clare (Teresa Palmer), a young backpacker, who, while strolling through the titular city, happens upon an apparently charming teacher called Andi (Max Riemelt).
The picture leads us slowly towards its appalling swivel. The couple stroll about interesting parts of the city. Eventually he leads her back to his basic apartment in an otherwise deserted building. The sex seems fine. The conversation carries few hints of danger. Nonetheless, the next morning Clare wakes up to find herself locked into the building. She initially tries to convince herself that it’s all a mistake. But when Andi returns, he has taken on the guise of an unapproachable captor.
Shortland has already shown herself be a master of chilly atmosphere. Once again, she inveigles us into an awkward environment where every word is loaded with danger and ambiguity. Palmer, good in Hacksaw Ridge and
Lights Out, confirms her potential with an understated performance that keeps the terror largely buttoned down. For all that, The Berlin
Syndrome doesn’t find much new to do with this scenario. Germain McMicking’s widescreen photography captures the flavours of Berlin and cautiously sucks us into the captive’s claustrophobia.
But the relationships are familiar, the eventual resolution unsurprising and the dialogue no more than adequate.
It gets by on evil ambience. Just. DONALD CLARKE