like the idea of feeling like you’ve been hit by a bus then shot with a taser while lying collapsed in the street, don’t miss this arthouse kidnap thriller. Director Cate Shortland is much more interested in captor-captive psychology than brutal torture-porn – but, still, the hardcore moments in ‘Berlin Syndrome’ had me hyperventilating. Australian actress Teresa Palmer is Clare, a photographer from Brisbane on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Berlin to find herself. Instead she finds Andi (Max Riemelt), a poetry-reading hipster teacher.
Back at his flat, in the middle of hot sex, he tells her: ‘Don’t worry. No one can hear you.’ That’s because Andi’s flat is in a derelict building. Oh, and none of the windows open. The next morning, he accidentally locks Clare in. The expression on her face as the penny drops had me reaching for a paper bag to breathe into.
Arguably, ‘Berlin Syndrome’ is more terrifying for women. You meet a guy, trust your instincts, walk hand-in-hand off into the night assuming he’s not a psychopath. The title refers to Stockholm syndrome, of course, and Clare finds herself identifying with her captor as weeks pass and her sense of self trickles away; it’s a survival strategy.
More dangerously – for Clare and for your nerves – she starts playing a cat and mouse game, pretending to be compliant while plotting an escape. The film isn’t perfect. It’s slightly too long and drifts a bit in the middle. But the final showdown left me in a cold sweat.