A locked room chal­lenge

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS -


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

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