Sundance 2017: Berlin Syndrome
Cate Shortland’s Berlin Syndrome, a beautifully dark thriller, is a high point for recent Australian cinema. Not typical in the least, this tale of entrapment and obsession will be off putting to mainstream audiences, but personally, it was right up my alley. Starring Teresa Palmer (Hacksaw Ridge) and Max Riemelt (Sense8), it recalls Rob Reiner’s Misery in its single location aesthetic and strong lead performances.
Teresa Palmer plays Clare, a photographer from Australia who while on vacation in Berlin has a one night stand with Riemelt’s Andi. Clare wakes the next morning to find herself locked in Andi’s apartment and is clearly very suspicious of the entire situation. To say any more of the plot would be entering spoiler territory, but with the title of Berlin Syndrome, you can gather where the story goes from here.
The first aspect that really grabbed me was the gorgeous cinematography by Germain McMicking. He uses color and light to reflect the raging emotions of the two lead characters and Clare’s dire ordeal. Shortland uses this to great effect and we’re placed right in Clare’s shoes from the first frame onwards. Stuck in the apartment, she’s forced to figure out various ways of escape, each one more inventive than the last. Pacing can be an issue however, as Berlin Syndrome can be aptly described as methodical. That said, outside of one or two of Andi’s excursions into Berlin, not a frame is wasted. We want to spend time with Clare and root for her to escape.
Palmer is in top form here, giving the best performance of her blossoming career. She’s able to emote with very little dialogue and the results are lovely. This is an actress who is only going to grow in stature over the next few years. Seeing a talent like hers used to it’s full potential is a delight. As for Riemelt, his character never shows all of his cards, but it works for the story being told. Extremely handsome with a cool demeanor, Andi is a powderkeg waiting to explode.
Luckily, you won’t have to wait long to see Berlin Syndrome, as it was recently picked up for distribution by Netflix. This is a picture that you’ll want to add to your Queue immediately. It’s one of the surprises of Sundance 2017 and with the right audience, it should catch on in a big way.