Letzte Schweigen, Das (2010)
★★★ / ★★★★
Two men, Timo (Wotan Wilke Möhring) and Peer (Ulrich Thomsen), in a red Audi make their way along a wooded highway when the driver takes notice of an eleven-year-old girl riding a bicycle. The car follows the girl and stops when she takes notice. Peer exits the vehicle, grabs the girl, and rapes her. He planned on letting her go but since she continues to struggle afterwards, he hits her across the face a little too hard and she is dead.
Twenty-three years later, a person commits a similar crime. In the very same field, the police find a bike, a bloody rock, and hair. David (Sebastian Blomberg) is one of the cops in charge of the investigation, but Krischan (Burghart Klaußner) feels he must be a part of it given that he was the detective who failed to solve the 1980’s case.
Challenging in content, confident in execution, and offering no easy answers, “Das letzte Schweigen,” based on a novel by Jan Costin Wagner, is a thriller with a lot of sadness which stems from various individuals who are touched by the crimes. What makes it particularly interesting is not only do we get a chance to see how the cops execute their jobs and how the victims’ families respond, we are asked to accept that the perpetrators have real thoughts and feelings toward the things they have done—and are wanting to do.
The picture juggles about a dozen characters with seeming ease. The two cops, David and Krischan, are in the middle of it all, but the rest are given appropriate depth despite some of them not having much time to grace the screen. Elena (Katrin Saß), the mother of the girl who was murdered in the first scene, is particularly memorable. Saß plays her with an intense anger and grief bubbling just below the surface.
What I will remember most is this: after she hears the news that a girl has been abducted, this time a thirteen-year-old, I looked at her face and sensed that she felt glad about the fact—even for just a microsecond. Now that a very similar crime is occurring, someone else knows how she felt more than two decades ago and so she feels less alone in her bereavement. In addition, maybe she thinks that this is a second chance for her to obtain closure. After all, the police did not find her daughter’s killer.
The manner in which the film jumps from scene to scene and character to character has a smooth and engaging flow. Only about once or twice, mostly toward the end, did I notice some of the more predictable techniques employed in order to build an element of shock or surprise. When director Baran bo Odar keeps away from what is expected, like presenting parallel scenes between the past and present, we experience the material through an original perspective.
Perhaps the most disturbing scenes involve Peer and Timo just sitting on a bench and watching children running, playing, and laughing. When they observe the kids like vultures, sometimes the images are in slow motion. Is that how it is like to be inside the mind of child molesters and murderers? And just when many of us may believe we have seen the worst, we are shown what they like to do indoors when the blinds are shut.
★★ / ★★★★
“Requiem” was based on the real-life story more commercially covered in “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” Michaela (Sandra Hüller) had been plagued by chronic seizures ever since childhood but the picture instantly suggested there was something far worse happening to her. So when she was finally accepted to attend the university, her parents (Imogen Kogge, Burghart Klaußner), especially her mother, did not want her to leave home. In college, at first things were fine despite her occasional–and natural–loneliness quickly remedied by a nice boy (Nicholas Reinke) and a classmate from high school (Anna Blomeier). But as the year pressed on, she slowly lost control of her body to the point where she was unable to reach religious symbols or even pray. After I saw this movie, I did not like it because I expected a more obvious approach in telling a story about a possessed girl that lead up to an exorcism. In other words, I expected a horror film. However, when I separate my expectations from what the film had to offer, the more I thought about it, the more I enjoyed it because it tried to stray from the obvious. I loved the fact that her condition was not an obvious demonic possession. I can even argue that she wasn’t possessed at all. From her symptoms, I can argue that she had schizophrenia because of the paranoia and imaginary visions and sounds. Then I turned to her very sheltered environment–how she was raised and the sexual repression she endured over the years. But then the movie commented on how we could easily turn to science for an explanation of things that we couldn’t fully understand. It added one layer of complexity after another while remaining true to its naturalistic also documentary-like style. Her progression from a normal girl to someone who reached a mental break was subtle and frightening in its own way. However, I thought the film needed more work on delivering more consistent payoffs. The first half relied heavily on setting up the background with small rewards dispersed few and far between. It would have been more terrifying if the camera allowed us to see through Michaela’s eyes and seeing the things she saw or hearing the voices she heard. By having more scenes that actively blurred the line between the real and the supernatural, the project would have been more frightening. Written by Barnd Lange and directed by Hans-Christian Schmid, “Requiem” was an interesting psychological drama with a lot of promise. It did not completely work for me because the first half was somewhat difficult to sit through but once it started picking up in the second half, my eyes were transfixed on the screen.