Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

One of the great curses of contemporary cinema is the genre film afraid to be seen as such; one of the most obvious manifestations of this aspirational tendency is the horror film that masquerades as a psychological thriller.

You can understand my spirits sinking, then, as writer/director Christian Alvart's Antibodies opened with a quotation from Dostoyevski's Crime And Punishment and the arrest of an enigmatic and seemingly near-superhuman serial killer, named Gabriel Engel, against the backdrop of a dark, rainy city. Looks like we're in for two hours of sub-Se7en angst-ridden existential ruminations on the existence/non-existence of God, the nature of good and evil and all that Philosophy 101 stuff.

Copy picture

And, sure enough, there is plenty of this to come as part-time cop and all round upstanding Christian family man Michael Martens requests the opportunity to question Engel about the murder of a 12-year-old girl in his rural constabulary a year ago and the killer unexpectedly engages in Hannibal Lecter game-playing.

But, remarkably, it works, as the focus successfully shifts back and forth between mundane mysteries - if Engel did not kill Lucia Fielder, who did? - and more religious/philosophical ones, culminating in a breathtaking transcendental finale that unites heavenly and earthly concerns in a manner approaching Robert Bresson at his finest.

Admittedly, there is a strong degree of contrivance throughout, whether a shop assistant who asks Martens, adrift in the city, if she can "lead him into temptation," or the "professional" detectives who inexplicably miss the clues that their counterpart, the "farmer," gets.

But this a necessary contrivance; maybe even to the extent that we increasingly see Martens as something akin to a holy fool, who may be perceiving things that others do not, as a "divine" contrivance of symbols and signifiers.

So, too, perhaps, the Lecter and John Doe-isms ascribed Engel, insofar as he emerges as "The Devil, probably," or - if that's too much - a Dostoyevsky/Nietzschean-inspired ubermensch who, since "God is dead" and "everything is permitted", has decided to elevate himself above the common herd through some "actes gratuity".

Whatever the case, this is a technically assured, well acted and, above all, thought-provoking piece of crossover cinema that will surely require repeat viewings to fully appreciate.

Reviewed on: 14 Aug 2005
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Antibodies packshot
A serial killer plays mind games with a policeman.
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Director: Christian Alvart

Writer: Christian Alvart

Starring: Wotan Wilke Mohring, Heinz Hoenig, Andre Hennicke, Ulrike Krumbiegel, Hauke Diekamp, Nina Proll, Jurgen Schornagel

Year: 2004

Runtime: 127 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Germany


EIFF 2005

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