Review: A backpacker becomes a captive in murky thriller Berlin Syndrome

Teresa Palmer as Clare and Max Riemelt as Andi in Berlin Syndrome. Picture: Curzon Artificial Eye

Teresa Palmer as Clare and Max Riemelt as Andi in Berlin Syndrome. Picture: Curzon Artificial Eye - Credit: Curzon Artificial Eye

A one-night stand becomes a nightmarish ordeal for one unsuspecting young woman in director Cate Shortland's psychological thriller, adapted from Melanie Joosten's novel.

Berlin Syndrome (15)

***

Young Australian tourist Clare (Teresa Palmer) is a keen photographer, who is backpacking around Germany, capturing images of the majestic architecture and local landscapes for her portfolio.

Clare is not your standard brash Aussie backpacker. As she takes photos of DDP landmarks during her stay in Berlin she tries to remains wary and cautious, but subconsciously her fear and uncertainty are putting out feelers that will gain the attention of teacher Andi (Max Riemelt), who likes to pull foreign tourists and then lock them away in his apartment in a deserted block.


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Convinced that Andi has accidentally forgotten to leave her a key, Clare stays in the apartment until he returns when she discovers that her incarceration was no accident.

Andi intends to keep her as his prisoner, even stealing the SIM card from her mobile phone so she is unable to call for help. Held hostage by a man, who thinks their living arrangement is completely normal, Clare must secretly plot her escape.

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The narrative's central conceit is wondering how close Berlin's Syndrome is to Stockholm's: is Clare just playing along with Andi to survive or has she really submitted to his will?

The film has a dreadful intimacy. Director Cate Shortland uses lots of close ups and handheld camera to suggest her protagonist's isolation, how tenuous her connections are to her surroundings.

Palmer's tremendous performance means we feel everything. She is an open book, her captor less so. Probably there wouldn't be much to read: a children's book written in big, difficult words that he doesn't understand.

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