2005 - Germany - 127 minutes
Writer and Director - Christian Alvart
My Rating - 5 of 5 Stars
I saw that this film was going to be released on DVD and thought it might be of interest, but on both NetFlix and Blockbuster, it was listed in the long wait category. I then discovered that it was offered for online viewing on NetFlix. Our technological world is becoming an amazing place, and I cannot image what it will be like when I'm ready to shuffle off in about twenty years - thirty years if I inherited a lot of my grandmothers' genes. I was on my way to bed one evening and thought I'd watch a little bit of this film online so clicked on that link at NetFlix. I sat glued to my seat for the next two hours and seven minutes. This dark, dark thriller grabs you and won't let go.
The film begins when two beat cops are called to an apartment house where screams have been heard. When they go to investigate, an all out firefight takes place between the criminal and the police. The criminal, Gabriel Engel, is caught and it is discovered that he is a serial killer for whom the police have been searching for a number of years. It is believed that he had raped, mutilated, and murdered thirteen boys and one girl. Engel readily admits to killing the boys, but claims that he did not murder the girl.
The scene then shifts to the small, country hamlet where the girl was murdered. Michael Martens is a farmer and the part-time constable of the village, and he has raised the ire of the villagers by thinking that the murder had been committed by one of them. Martens' greatest detractor is his father-in-law - a man who would make Adolph Hitler shiver.
Martens is a deeply religious and pious man with strong convictions. These personality traits do not endear him to his fellow citizens. His stance on the murder is causing a strain within his own family in addition to his problems with the villagers. His wife is cold, and his son - a friend of the murdered girl - is detached and having social and psychological problems. Even Martens' priest is disapproving shown by an emotion charged scene in church in which he withholds the Eucharist from Martens at communion while he gives a thinly veiled lecture to the congregation on the topic of trust and suspicion. All of Martens problems are enhanced when Engel is arrested and it is reported inaccurately in the press that he is responsible for the death of the girl.
Engel is a highly intelligent and evil man and expresses desire to speak with Martens. Thus begins a battle of wills between good and evil. Engel professes not to have murdered the girl but claims to know the identity of the real murderer. It is clearly Engel's motive to destroy a very good man. During the ensuing confrontations and investigations, much is revealed about Martens and his will is severely challenged.
Needless-to-say, the entire film is a religious allegory - after all, the two main characters are named Michael and Gabriel and they engage in an intense battle of wills.
To disclose any more would certainly spoil the viewing enjoyment for anyone interested in this hypnotic film. If you are a fan of dark, chilling thrillers, I guarantee that, you too, will be glued to your seat while watching this extraordinary motion picture.
September 13, 2007