Monday, 27 July 2015

Stereo (4 Stars)

After the death of his wife Erik Keppler leaves Berlin and moves to a remote village in the east of Germany. It's a complete new start for him. He gives up his career as a cook and opens a garage where he repairs motorcycles. He finds a new girlfriend, Julia, and he loves Julia's daughter as if she were his own, but he's reluctant to settle down. Julia's father is a policeman and is at first suspicious of a strange man moving from the big city to the middle of nowhere, but they grow to like one another.

Then two strangers appear in Erik's life. The first is a Russian called Gaspar who asks Erik to return to Berlin to kill someone. Erik refuses at first, but Gaspar threatens to harm Julia and her family if he doesn't agree. The second stranger is a hooded man called Henry, who advises Erik to kill Gaspar. The problem is that nobody else can see Henry. Erik thinks he's going mad and visits a psychiatrist. Of course, anyone who knows that what he's seeing isn't real isn't mad. People who are mad believe the illusions.

From this point the story becomes increasingly complex. Gaspar is killed, but other Russians visit Erik who are even more aggressive towards him. Henry pleads with Erik to leave Julia and flea to another part of the country. Erik visits an alternative doctor who treats mental illnesses by a mixture of acupuncture and hypnosis, and the needles seem to hurt Henry as they're pushed into Erik's body. Erik is caught up in a nightmare, and he has no idea why he's the centre of everything that's happening.

This is a bizarre German thriller. It's not quite a horror film, it's not quite a fantasy, it's surreal and defies strict categorisation. Somehow I can't shake the impression that the main point of the film wasn't to tell a story, it was to put the actors Jürgen Vogel (Erik) and Moritz Bleibtreu (Henry) on the screen together. They're two of Germany's biggest actors, but they have never appeared together in a film, apart from "Quellen des Lebens", and even in that they didn't appear in the same scenes. It's not clear why the film is called "Stereo", unless it refers to two men, Erik and Henry, side by side, seeing the world together but each from a slightly different angle.

An interesting film. Curious. Unsettling. But interesting. I need to watch it again.

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