Thursday, 9 August 2018

The Child (2012) (3 Stars)

Simon is a 10-year-old boy lying in a hospital in Berlin. He's suffering from a brain tumour and only has a few days left to live. After receiving therapy from a psychotherapist to prepare him to accept death calmly he remembers that he killed people in his previous life. The most recent murders were 15 years ago. His work isn't finished yet. He wants to kill one more person.

If the plot had stopped there I would say "Wow, what a great story!" Unfortunately it doesn't. So many things get thrown into the story that I just got frustrated while watching the film. I wished the story could have been simplified.

The boy says that he can prove his claims. A nurse takes Simon away from the hospital – illegally – to meet with her boyfriend, Robert Stern, a lawyer. Simon leads them to a corpse hidden in an abandoned factory. Robert calls the police, and Simon confesses to the crime, but they don't believe him. Simon gives Robert the address of a storage unit where a second body is found, hacked to pieces and left in a refrigerator. When the police come this time they suspect Robert of being the murderer.

At this point the film starts getting too complicated. We find out that Robert's marriage broke down 10 years ago because his son Felix died when he was only one day old. An unidentified person contacts Robert and tells him his son didn't die, and he can tell him where he is if he finds out from Simon what the name of the killer was. He only has 24 hours. As an added incentive Robert's ex-wife has been kidnapped.

What does all this have to do with Simon? Anything? Nothing?

After Robert doesn't meet the deadline and his ex-wife is shot he carries on investigations by himself and unearths a child slavery ring. He can't ask the police for help because he's a wanted man after kidnapping Simon from the hospital a second time.

In the last 10 minutes of the film there are three plot twists. After the first plot twist I was mildly surprised and thought it was a good idea. When the second and the third came I was tutting and saying "This is just ridiculous".

The film is based on a novel by the author Sebastian Fitzek that has supposedly sold millions of copies. Maybe the book is better than the film. I don't know. All I can say is that the film isn't satisfactory.

One strange thing about the film is the alienation in the settings. The film is set in Berlin, as is clear from landmarks and the car number plates, but everything is in English. The characters don't just speak English, which would be excusable, they also read English books, and the signs on the wall are in English. The street names are German, but the shops have English names. It's an unsettling half German half English world. Anything done to this extent can't be a blunder, it has to be a deliberate choice by the director, but why?

The film has only been released in Germany, but the Blu-ray contains the original English dialogue, if I haven't put you off already. The book is available on Amazon in America and England. "Fitzek's thrillers are breathtaking and full of wild twists", the book cover claims. Based on the evidence of this one story it's true.

I have a feeling I ought to watch the film again. I might get more out of it next time, so I'll give it one more chance. Not yet. Maybe next year.

Click here to view the trailer.

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