“Berlin Syndrome” (Film Review) – Unpredictable, Discomforting Psychological Thriller

“Berlin Syndrome” (Film Review)

Director Cate Shortland’s psychological thriller “Berlin Syndrome” is an engaging and quite unpredictable twisted tale of a young photographer whose trip to Germany goes wrong as she is taken hostage by her would-be lover. What started as a typical romantic story soon floats in between horror and psychological thriller, giving absolutely nothing to the cliché zone.

‘Berlin Syndrome’ follows Australian photographer Clare (Teresa Palmer), clicking photographs of buildings and busy streets that certainly gives some hints to her rather lonesome life. In her quest to find some purpose, she happens to meet Andi (Max Riemelt), an English teacher, and they soon dive into a relationship, filled with passion and lust.

The characterization in ‘Berlin Syndrome’ makes it even more suspenseful

As their chemistry was very much visible while the calmness was unnerving, the creepiness is revealed when Clare finds herself locked up in an abandoned apartment room. The moment she realizes that Andi does not want to let her go, the terrifying situation pushes her to accept the very situation while looking for options to free herself.

While the title of the film somehow is a reference to Stockholm syndrome (that defines a feeling of love and trust from the hostage towards the captor), it never fully goes that way. The characterization of Clare, the sense of confusion, and ambiguity make it further suspenseful as we keep on wondering about the ending.

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“Berlin Syndrome” – Here is the Film Trailer

“Berlin Syndrome” is not written from the point of view of the captor, at the same time, it pushes us to think about the mindset of such men in doing such insane things while hinting the human nature in general and our vulnerabilities in line with lust and passion, which always has potential to push us into pain.

None of the two main characters is the real protagonist here. The narration keeps shifting and as a result, the film becomes a bit lengthy. The story and the narrative style of Cate Shortland are very interesting, as in the middle we get to learn a few things about Andi’s life, and his relationship with his parents (especially his mother abandoning him) that explains his obsessive nature. While all these elements in the story make it suspenseful, many of us might find this a drag.

The film “Berlin Syndrome” (2017 Australian-French production) is based on the novel of the same name by Melanie Joosten. The film is now streaming on multiple web platforms, including Amazon Prime Video.

Use of abstract imagery and cinematography enhance the story

The use of abstract imagery like buildings and locked up houses, too, suggests how at times situations can take away the sense of life or freedom from us. Then there are carefully planted dialogues that talk about life experiences, the ‘complicated’ nature of human beings, and demeaning relationships; also, the cold cinematography together highlights the tense and claustrophobic atmosphere.

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The ending of “Berlin Syndrome” is interesting, as we need to carefully watch the scenes in order to join the dots. Else, it will definitely ask you for a rewatch. Even though the film does not emphasize any single character, Teresa Palmer’s performance as Clare is impressive enough to take the story to its logical conclusion.

Where to watch Berlin Syndrome (2017)
A full-time movie geek and part time e-learning professional. He loves to read, write and discuss in length about cinema and the art of filmmaking.

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