Gravity

Gravity

***

Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

Mild-mannered bank loan clerk Frederik (Fabian Hinrichs) is a fastidiously organised man; there is not a hint of character or personal effects in his interior-decorated haven. Everything is in its place, and lined up in perfect order. He's been putting his ex-girlfriend Nadine (Nora von Waldstattan) continuously under surveillance (bordering on stalking); the film opens with him taking her picture, and keeping a private album of her whereabouts. He calls her up in silence, and it's clear it being going on a while - "What a poor bastard you are, you sicko!"

He has a brief tussle in the bank's car park with a customer, and he refuses an extension on the customer's loan - used to build and prop up a failing night club. The customer calmly counts down from five, pulls out a gun and blows his own brains out on the spot. Shaken up, Frederik takes the rest of the day off. Later, during a sudden bout of kleptomania, he bumps into an old friend, Vince (Jurgen Vogel), who convinces him to pay for a stolen CD. Thanking him, he hands out his card - "If you need anything". A couple of beers later, Vince asks Frederik about obtaining a bank loan for a similar project to that of the recently deceased - unfortunately, seven years in the clink makes Vince ineligible.

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After many years in the same job as a bank loan officer, Frederik is "Fed up; I've had it!" - and has brutal fantasies about masked men dishing out pain on his boss. One afternoon, Frederik's boss invites him to his home for a meal with other bank colleagues - "a mixture of business and pleasure". Frederik steals his front door key, and breaks in when the boss is on holiday - just to see if he can get away with it, and to see whether the boss notices when the art pieces on the wall are rearranged. After losing his credit card under a locked door, he needs Vince's criminal expertise to pick it - and there and then decides to rob the place.

It's this subsequent shedding of inhibitions that leads Frederik inexorably into a life of violent crime. In payment for his help, Vince requests a customer's information, and does not share his reasons. All the while, Frederik filches inside intel on wealthy customers for further break-ins. Before long, they're pulling off jobs left and right. Frederik requests "training" in pulling off further crimes; Vince immediately hands him a baseball bat and sets him loose on a pack of skinheads. Eventually, he arranges a chance encounter with Nadine, to try to rekindle mutual feelings.

Gravity is a reasonably skillful and elegant thriller, working well as a piece of visceral moviemaking. The photography is solid, driving home the murky tone of Frederik's blackened mind. The film also serves as a loose metaphor for the current financial situation. For all his years, Frederik was a brilliant bank employee - following his team's marketing strategy perfectly, selling his customers bad loans that they couldn't hope to pay back and getting away with it. The actual robberies on wealthy suburbanites are a mere extension of this legal loansharking. "Who is the greater criminal: he who robs a bank or he who founds one?"

Hinrich's central performance is compulsive, even if he is never sympathetic. Maximilian Erlenwein's direction and story as a whole are effective, but the screenplay doesn't give Frederik much of a chance to convince us of his internal logic, denying us a window into why he makes his choices. As a result it's somewhat unsatisfying towards the end. The trio of excellent performances holds it together.

Reviewed on: 24 Jun 2010
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A bank clerk finds himself drawn into the criminal underworld after a shock to the senses.
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EIFF 2010

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