Sundance 2017 Review: Berlin Syndrome
Berlin Syndrome is a difficult film to talk about without divulging major plot points and script details. However, once the Australian thriller hits Netflix this spring, I encourage those who love counterphobic and slow burning thriller to see this tension-filled gem.
While on vacation in Berlin, an Australian photojournalist, Clare (Teresa Palmer) meets a charismatic local named Andi (Max Riemelt). There is an instant attraction between them. A night of passion ensues. But what initially appears to be the start of a romance, suddenly takes an unexpected and sinister turn. Clare wakes the following morning to discover Andi has left for work and locked her in his apartment. And he has no intention of letting her go, ever.
The moment Berlin Syndrome started, I was instantly transfixed by the gorgeous cinematography. This is a beautiful looking film, which is a credit to director Cate Shortland, considering most of the movie takes place in the confines of an apartment complex.
The film opens up, and right out of the gate, you can tell Berlin Syndrome is going to be a slow burn. Claire and Andi have an instant connection, with dialogue that is written in the sense of how “real people” talk. Though short-lived, the romantic chemistry between Claire and Andi is instantaneous.The way the script seamlessly turns from romantic chemistry to a much darker one is done superbly.
Teresa Palmer is utterly brilliant in the lead role. Her range as an actress is second to none, and Berlin Syndrome may be her best work yet. She is no damsel in distress, Claire is a smart, cunning and vigorous woman, who can’t help but show vulnerability in extreme situations. The film never wants you to feel sorry for her, but root for us to escape from this sociopathic sleazeball.
What works best about Berlin Syndrome is how it uses traumatic situations to organically trigger mental and physical distress. While it may be hard for some to watch, due to the realness in Palmer’s performance, there’s no denying the messages at hand. They are done well, with class and will stick with you long after the film ends.
That being said, the pacing is the weakest link. Sometimes repetitive and tedious, I couldn’t help but want that little “extra” to turn this from a good film to a great one. However, when the mind games between Claire and Andi are at an all time high, the film shines in all the right places.
Berlin Syndrome is a terrific showcase for actress Teressa Palmer and a high point on Cate Shortlands resume. I can’t see myself watching it again, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to be thinking about the ending for weeks to come.
Berlin Syndrome Opens on January 20th at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival