Country : Germany
Running Time: 127 minutes
Distributor: Tartan Films
Like watching Silence of the Lamb... In church.
Written and directed by Christian Alvart
Starring Wotan Wilke Möhring, Christian von Aster, Andre Hennicke, Waltraud Witte, Norman Reedus and Konstantin Gradus.
To say the film Antibodies by Christian Alvart is ‘brutally efficient’ would be something of a cliché, given its country of origin, but that’s the best term I can think of to describe it. It’s cold, calculating and disturbing, but I can’t decide if it’s a dark crime thriller in the mould of David Fincher’s ‘Se7en’ or a religious morality play. By the end it comes dangerously and perplexingly close to the latter.
The plot is familiar enough. After a SWAT raid on his home, German serial killer Gabriel Engel (Andre Hennicke) is arrested and immediately confesses to the killings of twelve young boys. It is assumed by all that he is also responsible for the murder of a young girl from a rural catholic community, until the local cop from the town Michael Martins (Mohring) has doubts about his involvement. After an interrogation, Martins discovers that Engel may not have killed the girl and may know who the killer is. Even worse, the killer may belong to Martins devoutly religious community. So begins a series of discussions between the cop and psychopath that sees Martins slowly become unravelled by the evil he has come face to face with.
It would be unfair to call this film the German Silence of the Lambs, but I’m not a fair person. It is clear the director has been influenced by the dark Serial killer flicks that have emerged from Hollywood, Such as Lambs and Se7en. On first meeting with the killer, Martins is somewhat surprised by his appearance to which Engel replies “Who were you expecting? Hannibal Lector?”. It is this knowledge of Hollywood films which somehow keeps the Antibodies fresh, as if German cinema has been spliced with Hollywood to make a different beast entirely. The interviews between Killer and cop do not take place in some dungeon but in a cold, sterile prison cell which is bathed in white light, in fact the whole film seems somehow more real than your typical serial killer film (apart from one scene at the end).
The film also has deeper issues at its heart such as what is the nature of evil? At what point does one question his own morality? And as suspicion grows between the cop and the town’s people, what will be the outcome of the battle between Modernity and Tradition? Alvart must be commended for including these themes in the film in a subtle manner and they truly do add weight and substance. However, his decision to include a heavy handed religious subtext near the end is less subtle; it’s the cinematic equivalent of being hit over the head with a crucifix in church whilst being forced to read the bible. And as I have said, the ending may perplex many, and although there are some good twists, many will have solved the case before the detective.
These quibbles aside, the film is worth viewing for Hennicke’s performance alone. Here is a killer who is chilling, intelligent and interesting, so far beyond the caricatures we so often put up with in mainstream Hollywood, you get the sense that people like this do exist in the world. Whether it be musing on the nature of evil or calmly describing one of his murders (whilst masturbating), it is a performance that will linger long after the closing credits role and is as close a representation of evil as has been seen on screen. It is brutally efficient acting, in a film that is recommended.
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Review by Chris Black, for Pitofhorror.com