With so much mental illness perceived to be responsible for horrific acts of violence around the globe; with PTSD haunting, frequently ruining/ending lives of those vowing to protect “us” (surely on both sides of every conflict: separating the good guys from the bad guys being an impossible task in many situations); and with so many lost souls after witnessing abject horrors that had nothing to do with themselves—wrong place at the wrong time, director-writer Oliver Kienle’s second feature has something to say on many more levels than just its brutal narrative.
From the opening scene, the beauty and relative innocence of music (Gabriel Fauré’s Pavane doing the honours on three, bookend-like occasions), serves as the ideal foil to brutal murders (two girls’ piano duet is forever interrupted by the grisly death of their parents), then—twenty years later—miserable attempts for revenge.
As fanciful and at times unbelievable as Kienle’s narrative is, thoughtful viewers will find links to present-day life and death that go far beyond the bare facts of the storytelling. As such, this a fine piece of cinema.
At the piano—pre-familial carnage—are two sisters: elder Jessica (played with grit and a compelling sense of madness by Friederike Becht two decades after the inciting incident—the perpetrators have just been released from prison) and two years younger, Sophie (Frida-Lovisa Hamann displaying a full range of emotion and style whether becoming an accomplished pianist, or struggling with “voices” that never seem to go away).
Even as they become orphans, Jessy vows to forever watch over her younger sibling. Despite her own death while in the throes of still another paranoid delusion—causing a missed career-making audition—Sophie cannot escape the otherworld presence and decidedly tough love of her loving sis—even beyond the grave.
Fending on her own, Sophie quickly falls for one of her caregivers (both women being struck by a car; Sophie survived), Martin (stoically enduring the love/hate of both sisters—dead or alive—Cristopher Letowski fits the bill to a T, but getting far more “adventure every day” than he could have possibly imagined).
To keep the mysteries and drama moving, 21st century techniques such as GPS “save route” feature and centuries-old “visit to the archives”, allow the pace to move steadily forward with a minimal amount of “told” back-story.
Yoshi Heimrath’s stellar cinematography reveals just enough of the “difficult” scenes to let viewers fill in their own gruesome blanks; Philipp Thomas complements those images by taut edits that also contribute much to the overall effect.
A viewing is certainly recommended, especially for those who appreciate a film that furthers the global discussion rather than merely entertains or shocks. JWR