Taking some of its inspiration from Room, Berlin Syndrome is a tense, claustrophobic thriller about a man holding a woman captive against her will in his impregnable flat. Despite dragging slightly in the middle, the film does a good job of eliminating any pacing issues with a nervy finale. Accompanied by unnerving orchestral strings throughout, Berlin Syndrome uses an interesting technique not often seen in these sort of films and follows both characters to empathise with the good and understand the bad.
The film opens with Australian Clare (Theresa Palmer) arriving in Berlin to sight-see and take pictures of the local architecture. Whilst there, she meets charismatic charmer Andi (Max Riemelt) and one thing leads to another and she ends up staying at his place for a night of passion. When she awakes in the morning, she discovers that Andi has gone to work and the flat has been locked with her inside. What follows is a horrifying survival scenario that sees Clare try and escape from Andi who’s hell bent on keeping her with him inside the flat forever. Its a good story and its well paced for the majority of the film, despite a slow middle section that goes on slightly too long.
The two actors dominate the screen time throughout and this increased emphasis on both without a supporting cast, helps to flesh both characters out. As mentioned earlier, the film shifts perspectives between both characters with Andi working at a local school and his scenes in German whilst Clare’s are predominantly her trying to escape or contemplating her options while stuck in the flat with close ups and long, drawn out camera shots. Its also worth mentioning here that for the first half hour or so, the film does a great job of foreshadowing what’s to come with some clever little teasers before the unthinkable becomes reality.
The climax to the film is surprisingly effective too. For long stretches of the film there’s a tension hanging over Clare’s scenes but the isolated days in the flat alone do slow the pace down to a crawl. This isn’t a bad thing and it actually works well here. When the finale occurs though, the pace increases ten fold and although it feels slightly jarring, it works well with an ending satisfying enough to tie up all loose ends.
Berlin Syndrome is a good thriller and despite a slightly overlong middle section, delivers the goods with an interesting emphasis shifting between characters that isn’t often seen in these sort of films. Its tense, unpredictable and shockingly bleak at times but its subject material is handled well with an unsettling score of orchestral strings throughout right up to its cat-and-mouse ending in this 2 hour thriller. Berlin Syndrome is certainly one of the better thrillers this year and one I’d definitely recommend checking out.