NO EMPATHY FOR BIMBO
Film Review by Fiore
Now that he is dead, it is very chic in film schools to belittle Syd Field and the three-act screenplay. The more progressive instructors and mindless students deviate from his model, however, the more alarmingly uneventful the films are.
One of Field’s first tenants was the importance of grabbing the viewer within the first ten pages of script. This is equal to the first ten minutes of the film. This is done in two fashions; either with an action sequence, or the introduction of an interesting character. THE BERLIN SYNDROME, a new thriller from Director Cate Shortland, attempts the latter and fails miserably. The character introduced is not empathetic and certainly not one any audience would care about. She is introduced not in the first ten pages, but rather the first 34 pages. It’s far too long to wait for someone uninteresting.
The script is based on a book of the same name, written by Melanie Joosten. Screenwriter Shaun Grant uses over a half-hour of film time to establish the film’s main conflict. That’s a grueling half hour of plodding storyline before anything becomes remotely interesting.
To keep the viewer amused for those thirty minutes, Grant attempts to introduce a fascinating character; but instead, presents a loose morals tramp who will only have empathy from the whores on Seventh Avenue.
Teresa Palmer plays Clare, an Australian photographer who arrives in Berlin for holiday, supposedly to photograph the city’s architecture. Within her first moments in Berlin, it is apparent she is on a trim expedition. She arrives at her hotel, only to crash a rooftop party. She drinks herself into a smooth buzz and attempts to put the make on every guy in attendance. Unfortunately for Clare, it is a couple’s party and she is unable to pry any guy from his gal. She is left alone at the end of the evening, and is obviously peeved. So peeved, she rises the next morning, flirts and seduces the first stud she sees, who is Andi, played by Max Riemelt. Andi is deeply disturbed, and proceeds to abduct and hold Clare prisoner. THE BERLIN SYNDROME details her attempts at escape from a man who falsely idolizes her.
Clare is a character of questionable moral fiber, who makes exceptionally bad decisions. Since decisions have consequences, it is difficult to empathize with Clare. This leaves THE BERLIN SYNDROME with no likable protagonist. In fact, Riemelt does such a fine job playing Andi, there is more sympathy for his character, and he is a looney.
1.1 KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
1. THE SCREWDRIVER
2. DADDY’S DEAD
Let’s take a look at the report card for THE BERLIN SYNDROME:
1.2 ACTING = C
1.3 CINEMATOGRAPHY = C
1.4 SOUND/MUSIC = C
1.5 EDITING = D
1.6 LIGHTING = D
1.7 SCRIPT = D
1.8 SFX = C
1.9 ACTION = D
Technically, there is nothing to salvage THE BERLIN SYNDROME. It is shot in relatively poor light, giving a washed out look to the movie. It seems this was not done as a mood setting cinematic ploy, but rather because there was no budget for post, and the original shooting crew did not compensate for the lack of budget.
THE BERLIN SYNDROME is entirely too long. It is a relatively simple tale, easily told in ninety minutes, but too much of it is spent attempting to elicit empathy for a weak character.
The film is currently released in select cities, but Pittsburgh is not one of them. You can, however, see it on Video On Demand (VOD). It would be worth a view for psychology majors or feministas with a warped sense of the Woman Warrior Agenda.