Film Review: Berlin Syndrome

There a few things more frightening than the thought of being held captive. All alone and your life in the hands of a deranged psychopath. Cinema has revelled and revolted in this sub-genre. These films range from the disgusting (Hostel), the bizarre (Salo, Black Snake Moan), the terrifying (Audition), to the tremendous (Misery). Berlin Syndrome, the new film from Cate Shortland (Lore, Somersault), isn’t exactly an advertisement for solo travel.

Clare (Teresa Palmer) is an Australian backpacker travelling around Germany, her keen interest in architecture has brought her to Berlin. In the street, she bumps into Andi (Max Riemelt), and English teacher. The pair hit it off and she ends up going back to his place in an abandoned building. The next day, he leaves for work and Clare finds herself locked in the apartment. Assuming it’s an oversight on his behalf, she thinks nothing of it. Until it happens again.

Cate Shortland’s third film is a strangely tepid affair. Berlin Syndrome is visually arresting. Using an array of textures and colours, she creates an almost dreamlike atmosphere akin to her debut Somersault. However, the plot itself is lugubrious and laboured. Both Palmer and Riemelt are impressive, but their characters seem stuck in indecisiveness. Hints of Stockholm Syndrome appear and dissipate whilst Andi’s rationale is vague at best. Given the situation, you would expect serious attempts at escape, but it seldom occurs. Leaving a rather flat situation to slowly pan-out into the inevitable.

Berlin Syndrome is out in cinemas from Friday 9 June.

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