I shall be opening up Berlin Syndrome, unlocking its secrets and freeing its intentions to judge if it’s liberating or should never have been released. So read on only if you’ve already seen Berlin Syndrome, or don’t plan to.
Watch BERLIN SYNDROME here
0:03:21 On the rooftop of some youth hostel, she accepts an invitation to party with a group of strangers. Either she’s trying to get kidnapped, or she’s never seen a horror film in her life…like Hostel.
0:05:46 At dawn, everyone leaves and she takes pictures of the sunrise to overcome her sadness at still being free.
[7:38 The song playing in the background is Petula Clark singing a German version of her hit ‘Downtown’ (on the playlist at the end of this article). This song will come up again at 1:37:16.]
0:08:22 Leaving a bookstore (in which no one scolded her for sitting on the floor and reading an entire book on Klimt rather than buy it — WTF!?), a German man (Max Riemelt as Andi) lets drop a stack of books beside her. She helps him collect them and it’s victim at first sight.
0:10:34 He takes her to an area filled with small gardens called a schrebergarten, which is German for “growing anxiety”.
[11:18 N.B. Here, Andi says, “I always come here to complicate life.” Clare chuckles and corrects him, “Uhm, I think you mean to, er, you’d say ‘contemplate‘.” Andi will use this pickup strategy again, later in the film. Stay tuned…]
0:14:22 After spending the day together, Andi drops Clare off at the hostel. She invites him up but he refuses, saying he has to meet someone, but he still gives her an orgasm by touching her chin. WTF!?
[N.B. He cannot go with her because he still has his current victim, Natalie, of whom he must dispose before snatching Clare.]
0:15:14 Looking at her camera while in bed that evening, Clare spots Andi in the background of a photo she took before she met him. She smiles, either because she knows she’s going to be kidnapped soon or because she’s too stupid to know she’s going to be kidnapped soon.
0:16:02 The next day, she checks out of the hostel and, instead of moving on to Dresden as she’d said, she scours the city looking for him. Surely she knows she’s looking for trouble.
0:16:54 She finds him in the bookshop she’d visited the previous day. He’s reading the same Klimt coffee table book she did. This excites her even more than chin touching — she likes it when men stimulate her Klimt.
0:18:24 They chat at a cafe and he pretends to choke her during a language lesson. As she evidently wants to be choked, she’s got him exactly where she wants him.
0:18:27 After choking her, he finds a wedding ring with a cross on a necklace around her neck. She tells him it’s an insurance policy from her mum, so that if she ever has an emergency, she can pawn it and return home. Her mum assumes Clare can recognise an emergency.
0:19:26 Andi takes her to his flat in an abandoned squat, and the only red flags that she sees are decals on a rotting door.
0:20:58 While she explores his flat she discovers that his windows are sealed shut, and yet the only alarm bells that go off are ones in her clock back in Australia.
0:22:30 Clare gives him her bare necessities.
No one will hear you.
Andi to Clare with his tongue in her keyhole
She’s even more excited now, knowing she need not worry about someone rescuing her.
Franka (Emma Bading): He feels a little shame about himself… He says he is finding himself but he’s just…[aside to classmate] Flichten
School chap: Escaping
Franka: …he’s just escaping.
Young schoolgirl in Andi’s English class describing a literary character
Andi is quite the character.
0:27:28 The next morning, while Andi is at work, Clare packs to leave but discovers the front door is locked and she doesn’t have a key to open it. She’s more stuck than I when playing trivial pursuit in a pub.
0:29:56 When Andi returns…
Clare: Did you lock me in?
Andi: Yes, sure. But next time I’ll tie you to the bed.
At this point, does she still really believe he’s joking? Frankly, with her naivete, I’m surprised this is the first time she’s been kidnapped.
0:30:48 They go out that evening, but then return to his flat because she’s got no other plans than be his prisoner.
[N.B. This is the last chance, for a while, that Clare will have to escape. Thus, it is also the cutoff point for my poll at the bottom of the article: At what point would you have fled Andi?]
0:32:14 The next morning, he says he’s leaving her the key and he takes off for work. In his absence, she discovers the key doesn’t fit the lock, he’s stolen her necklace, and that he’s written“meine” on her shoulder. When did he do this and why didn’t she notice? It may be the German word for ”mine”, but is it also German for “WTF!?”
0:33:06 After all of this, she still only realises she’s more screwed than a carpenter with wood when she discovers he’s taken her SIM card.
[N.B. This is also a WTF, because emergency numbers can still be dialed without a SIM card.]
0:34:11 After trying to break the window with a chair, Clare is shocked to find a second pane of unbreakable plastic behind the glass. But does she know this is a good way to reduce heating bills?
People say all sorts of things in bed. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
Clare to Andi
When Andi comes home, Clare tries to leave but Andi won’t let her. She understands for the third time that she’s being held captive. Andi reminds her that she could have gone to Dresden but said she wanted to stay. I understand his confusion. Clare is sending mixed signals because until now, she’s behaved as someone looking to be kidnapped.
0:40:28 Andi has dinner with his father, a uni professor. He tells him that he’s got a new girlfriend, an Australian named Clare. When asked, he says that Natalie, his ex, has moved back to Canada, which must be German for “unmarked grave”.
0:43:36 Andi comes home and unties Clare from the mattress, where she’s soiled herself and the plastic covering the bed. He also mentions he texted Clare’s mum, and personally, I hope he wrote Clare couldn’t text because she was “tied up”.
0:44:12 In the shower, Clare finds a clump of blonde hair in the drain and becomes quite distraught: perhaps she thought Andi cleaned better than this.
0:49:01 While they work on a jigsaw puzzle together, she stabs his hand so hard with a screwdriver that he’s stuck to the table. She grabs the keys and flees, but doesn’t lock the door after her in order to lock him in. She wants to be free, but not that free. WTF!?
0:49:44 He catches her, obviously, and fractures her fingers as a punishment. Well, at least she’s finally caught a break.
0:55:21 While teaching his high school gym class, he ogles Franka so much it’s in slow motion.
0:56:28 Clare tries to open a door with a paperclip as a lock pick but instead she breaks the metal off in the lock. She really is the ideal prisoner.
1:00:51 Franka pops by to flirt with her teacher, but he threatens to report her to get her to leave. She does notice a naked Australian slapper in the flat but Andi tells her it’s his girlfriend. And, it probably is, as Clare makes no effort to get Franka’s attention.
1:02:18 The door with the blocked key hole won’t open, meaning Andi can’t take the Polaroids and hair clippings to his secret storage room. Just as he begins accusing Clare, the door cedes and the tension is as anticlimactic as the rest of the film.
1:02:58 Clare is reading a book of poems by Ted Hughes, because when you’re trapped, nothing goes down quite like reading the man that made Sylvia Plath kill herself.
1:06:21 Andi is at his father’s and Clare is alone in the flat when the snow begins to fall and the power goes out. The apartment is now as dim as she is.
1:07:44 Andi, still at his father’s, comes down stairs to find his dad has died. That’s life!
1:09:56 Andi stays at his father’s home and doesn’t return to the flat for several days. In his absence, Clare begins to take nude Polaroids of herself. She’s a “model” prisoner.
1:11:42 In Andi’s absence, Clare finds a ballpoint pen from the Calgary Tower. She realises it’s from Natalie, the girl before her, and can now be used to write missives for the dead letter office.
1:13:32 They cry together when Andi returns to the flat. He over his dead father and she with relief as she thought he was never going to come back. Then she seduces him and comes down with a nasty case of Stockholm Syndrome. [TLDR The Stockholm Syndrome is when you’ve been a victim so long you begin to appreciate your captor. It’s also known as “a Trump supporter”.]
1:15:38 At a sad Christmas celebration, he gives her 2 books, Raymond Carver’s short story collection Cathedral, and W. G. Sebald‘s novel Austerlitz. The latter is because he’s not finished torturing her.
1:18:04 When Clare tries to explain what cicadas are by imitating the sounds they make, we understand she’s gone a little buggy.
[Honestly, Teresa Palmer does an amazing job showing Clare’s descent into madness.]
1:19:42 Andi then gives Clare his dead dad’s dog, Lotte, as in “a lotte shite to process”.
1:21:31 Andi takes Clare to the forest to chop her up but just as he’s raising the ax, a child stumbles and cries out. Other people’s kids…make good ritual sacrifices.
1:22:08 Clare tells the injured child’s sibling to call the police because Andi is a bad man, but she’s chosen the only German child in the world who can’t speak English.
1:22:52 Hansel and Gretel’s mum comes along but Clare doesn’t say anything to her about calling the cops because how bad does she want to leave really?
1:24:52 Andi comes home from walking the dog and tells Clare Lotte had run away. #LuckyDog
1:27:02 While Andi is at a New Year’s Eve party, Clare breaks into the locked room find finds a photo album of her naked Polaroids. Like a naturalist in winter, she learns it’s bare-able.
1:28:32 Beside his masturbation chair, Clare discovers another photo album containing snaps of Andi as a wee lad and also photos of Natalie, his previous victim. Clare seems upset, but perhaps it’s because Natalie’s album is closest to the masturbation chair.
1:29:26 To make her leave him alone, Andi insults one of his colleagues at the soiree in a way that would require subtitles to fully comprehend. [Basically, he accuses her of throwing herself at him and she asks him out…of the flat.]
Andi: On New Year’s Eve, isn’t it important to compensate your life?
Girl: What? I think you mean ‘contemplate’.
Outside the party, and flirts with a girl by making the same ‘endearing’ English mistake that he made with Clare back at the schrebergarten [see 11:18]. If bad English is endearing, my mates are the most handsome blokes on earth.
1:31:27 Driving home, Andi looks out of his car, seeking a new victim. #windowshopping
1:32:44 A homeless man with a torch appears in a window across the courtyard from Clare. She makes a scene with pans to draw his attention, and it seems to wok.
1:33:42 Andi returns while the Samaritan is trying to open the door, and Clare has a front row seat while she watches through the peephole as Andi kills the stranger. Andi just wanted piece of mind.
1:35:48 Andi forces a distraught Clare to help him clean up after the murder, and she’s so confused that she pities both Andi and the man he killed.
[N.B. One thing this film does extremely well is to analyse the complex relationship that’s set in between Clare and her captor.]
When you’re alone, and life is making you lonely
You can always go
Clare singing ironically
After roasting the homeless man (and not in the “joke telling” sense), Andi covers the windows with boards while Clare sings about going Downtown. [The song is “Downtown”, made famous by Petula Clark. See the playlist at the bottom of this synposis.]
1:38:00 Andi finds an article about Clare in the local paper. He then tells Clare to pack bags because he’s having the flat fumigated the following day, but in fact there’s only one pest he wants eliminated.
1:39:38 Clare notices Andi’s marking his students’ notebooks, so she burns her hand on the cooker, forcing him to go to the loo to get the cream. Whilst he’s in the toilets, she purloin’s a pupil’s notebook to give it a note of her own.
1:41:14 The next day, at dawn, he takes her rucksack and stashes it in a cellar with Natalie’s rucksack (we know it’s hers from the Canadian flag patch sewn on it). He then proceeds to cut off the water because he knows people cannot live longer than 3 days without water. Even I know the Survival Rule of 3s (people will die after 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food) and I’m not even a serial killer…you think.
1:41:42 In Andi’s class at school, Franka opens her notebook and finds a photo of Clare bound for pleasure, just not her own.
1:42:04 Franka asks to be excused but drops the Polaroid on her way out. She’s a bright girl, but that’s just her braces.
1:43:14 Andi finds his class ogling the photo and understands now why Franka left. He takes off after her in his car, while she was on a bicycle. He hopes to beat her, and not just in the race.
1:44:11 Arriving at the apartment building, Andi sees the discarded lockbox that held the key to his flat, meaning Franka found the key and freed Clare. His only hope now is that Franka doesn’t know what a mobile phone is and that the girls are too stupid to leave the building and get help, but instead just hide and wait for him to return and hunt them down. But no one’s that stupid, right?
1:44:47 Wrong! The girls become confused and instead of running downstairs to freedom, Franka turns around, runs upstairs and traps herself. WTF!? #freedumb
1:47:58 While Franka is upstairs, Clare returns to the flat and lures Andi in. Once he’s entered, she magically sneaks past him and locks him in, getting her revenge in a burst of completely and totally anticlimactic irony.
1:50:48 Taking her passport and emergency necklace, she hops in a taxi and rides away. This means Andi will die of dehydration and the police will never know what happened or what happened to Natalie because evidently Franka has decided not to tell anyone, either. WTF!?
- WTF!?’s: 9 terminal ones
- When to Follow: Teresa Palmer’s moving performance is wasted on this film. She truly gives it her all and the payoff is visible on the screen, unfortunately, she is far better than the story, which never rises above the mundane. While, on the surface, the script is obviously based on the concept of the Stockholm Syndrome, there is another level here linked more closely with the title. The film is called Berlin Syndrome in reference to the split personality of the city, meaning Berlin’s history as a city divided between the GDR East German communists and the West German capitalist sections. While this may have worked more successfully in the novel upon which the script is based, here it isn’t developed enough to be interesting, which is logical because no one watching a suspense / thriller cares anyway. As it is, Berlin Syndrome is a string of cliches that form a tired cautionary tale. That said, I hated it less after a second watch. How many times would I have to watch it to actually like it?
- Where’s This Found: Out of a possible 10, I have 4 F’s to give
- What To Feedback:
[N.B. As one reader added the moment towards the beginning where Andi offers her strawberries, I’ve included that as an option in the poll.]
Left Over WTF (Way Too Funny) Photos
Left over photos
Prints suitable for reposting!
WTF!? do you meme?
What to Follow Up
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