Thursday, 13 July 2017
Berlin Falling (3 Stars)
This is a German film with an English title. I assume that the title refers to recent films such as "London has fallen", in which London is suffering the aftermath of a massive terrorist attack. "Berlin Falling" deals with Berlin being complacent as a terrorist attack is about to take place.
Frank Balzer is a former soldier living in Havelland (based on his car number plates). He's still traumatised from his time serving in Afghanistan. He lives in a squalid apartment and needs alcohol to get through the day. It's Christmas Eve, and he plans to pick up his daughter Lilly from Berlin's main station. He's divorced and he hasn't seen her for years.
Let's pause there for a moment. I know from the experiences of friends and acquaintances that life is difficult for soldiers when they leave the army. It's not necessarily post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Even soldiers who have not been in war zones feel disoriented when they return home. Normal life is so different that it's difficult to adjust. In the army everything is about discipline. There's a fixed routine every day, from morning till evening. There's constant companionship. Unless you're an officer you share a room with a dozen other soldiers. Then you return home, and you have nobody to tell you what to do. Even if you have friends you hardly see them because they have to work every day.
One of my best friends, Brian Farmer, was in the British army for 22 years. He wanted to work after returning home, but he couldn't. He couldn't hold a job for more than a few weeks, so he spent most of his time in his tiny room drinking alcohol. What else could he do? In his desperation to find friends he got involved with the wrong people, and they killed him.
Click here to read my tribute to Brian Farmer.
Click here to read about his murder trial.
The English system shares the guilt for Brian Farmer's death. How could a man who faithfully served his country for 22 years be abandoned and left to deteriorate. It's not just an English problem, as we see in the film I'm reviewing. Even in Germany, one of the socially fairest countries in the world, ex-soldiers are left to rot after their discharge. At the very least, there should be follow-up counselling for former soldiers.
Now let's get back to the film. When Frank goes to the petrol station to fill his tank for the journey a stranger approaches him and asks him for a lift to Berlin. What a coincidence that they're going in the same direction! Or so it seems. As they talk on the journey the stranger, who introduces himself as Andreas, confesses that he was waiting for Frank. He has a friend on the train sitting opposite Frank's daughter and threatens to have her killed if Frank doesn't cooperate. Andreas is carrying a bomb to Berlin and intends to explode it in the middle of the Berlin main station. But why has he chosen Frank as his assistant? You need to watch the film to get the answer.
"Berlin Falling" is a fascinating mixture of a road movie and a psychological thriller. It's spoilt by the obvious plot holes. How did Andreas know Frank would be at the petrol station? He might have filled his tank the day before. What if Frank had refused to give him a lift? The two men argue and Frank throws Andreas out of the car before Andreas threatens Lilly. They have a fight and Andreas overpowers Frank, but what if Frank had won and driven away? In fact, as an ex-soldier Frank should have won the fight.
The film's biggest weakness is that the characters aren't fleshed out. We only find out more about them at the end of the film. Maybe it's justifiable that the mystery surrounding Andreas remains in place until the last 15 minutes, but we should have got to know Frank better before then. An alcoholic ex-soldier, that's all we're told about him. That's so little information that it's almost a cliché.
I've read that the film will be distributed in America. I doubt it will make its way into the cinemas, but expect a DVD and Blu-ray release later this year.