Review / ‘Berlin Syndrome’ (MA) ***

BRISBANE girl Clare (Teresa Palmer) arrives in Berlin to photograph architecture for a magazine. On the sidewalk, she strikes up a conversation with Andi (Max Riemelt).

The meeting is the prologue to Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland’s third feature, of which the first puts a woman in danger from a sexual predator (“Somersault”) and the second puts a teenage girl in the hazardous situation of leading her younger siblings across Germany to distant safety with relatives after the end of the war to defeat Hitler. Ms Shortland is more than a one-trick pony, doing great things with the tricks her heroines must perform.

Based on a novel by Melanie Joosten, “Berlin Syndrome” is at its core a two-hander that really gets going in Andi’s apartment after a night of recreational bonks. No post-orgasmic lassitude for Andi. He’s off to the college where he teaches English. Clare awakes to find that the apartment door is locked. Okay, Andi’s gone to work and forgotten to leave the key. Oh, yeah?

The tensions build as Clare realises her predicament. The body of the plot deals with the slings and arrows of her outraged fortune before accepting that until she outsmarts Andi, there’s no way she’ll see what lies outside the front door. We quickly work out that he’s a good-looking predator both sexually and emotionally. Indeed, there are hints that Clare is not his first victim and that he’s already scouting among his students to find the next one.

Shortland’s filmography to this point is brief. Escapist, yes, like most fictionalised drama, but top-grade cinema that effectively achieves its objectives. Hard to ask for more.

At Palace Electric

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