Perhaps only sitting in a freezing igloo where, instead of perfect blocks of ice, long thin steely icicles provide just enough contact with the outer world recreates the feeling of Berlin Syndrome.
The story is a simple one: a traveller’s nightmare. The materialisation of the fear that in a land where we are strangers we know nothing; not the hidden gems, not companions and not the captors.
Cate Shortland introduces Clare as every mother’s worry: a curious adventurer journeying close enough to the fire to try and make out the strange shapes inside it. Sometimes such explorers are lucky enough to find the world and everything in it, and sometimes they just get burnt.
From the first meeting of Andy, a Berlin local, and Clare, to the moment she escapes the three rooms where she endures physical and psychological torment for an indeterminate number of months, the film fosters an increasingly icy-cold atmosphere. This serves to both preserve the dread in a state of icy stillness, and increase the suspense and tension at a glacial pace; slow but unstoppable.
Without Liam Neeson there to quell the fears of both Clare and the audience, this film allows the time and energy to focus on the not-so-action-packed part of a kidnap. The waiting, the wondering, the worrying and ultimately the escape, not the rescue. Room, 10 Cloverfield Lane and now Berlin Syndrome leave us wondering: how many victims are still out there?
Like being left out in the cold too long, however, this film does engender a feeling of impatience and a sense of numbness that lends the question of if the freezing pain was worth the experience in the first place. It’s only after warming back up that the trip feels well worthwhile.
CAST: Teresa Palmer, Max Riemelt, Matthias Habich
DIRECTOR: Cate Shortland
WRITERS: Shaun Grant (screenplay), Melanie Joosten (novel)
SYNOPSIS: A passionate holiday romance leads to an obsessive relationship, when an Australian photojournalist wakes one morning in a Berlin apartment and is unable to leave.