Rated: R for disturbing violent content, strong sexuality, nudity and some language. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: May 26, 2017 Released by: Entertainment One
Cate Shortland does a decent job handling this enslavement tale into being less gratuitous than it could have been.
Down Under import Berlin Syndrome is buoyed by the thespian prowess of Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies, Lights Out, and Hacksaw Ridge) and Max Riemelt, essentially a two-handler that is different than others of its ilk, from Black Snake Moan to a contemptible Captivity.
A typical storyline for this sub-genre is mostly rendered with a measured dexterity from disparate perspectives with an occasional intrusive eclectic score to highlight the often grim mood in a rather polished production (with decent interior/exterior lensing) for what probably won't have 'legs' in smaller, independent theatrical venues.
What happens to photojournalist backpacking Clare (Palmer) when meeting poised, handsome stranger in Andi (Riemelt) in Berlin from Australia looks to good to be true until the next morning when she has become an inmate in his flat. Perhaps she was looking for an exciting departure from unspecified earlier setbacks or strife.
Palmer's turn is revelatory and brave in some ways that call to mind stellar turn in classic celluloid horror with a strong sense of misery and distress; the turns of the story and the direction may not favor Riemelt as much whose obsessed, batty nature still registers an unnerving effect. Not really a chess match here even with lurid scenes involving a determined, desperate Clare doing her utmost to escape clutches of Andi who connects with his father and is intensely focused on one of his students.
Maybe Shortland could have made this watchable Syndrome more scintillating by working more closely with her editor to ramp up its taut nature and not use the slow-motion technique as a padding mechanism. Nonetheless, Berlin, especially when Palmer is on screen, often prevails as a carefully calibrated character-driven low-budgeter that is hardly contrived, but ultimately less than thrilling.