Australian director Cate Shortland directed Berlin Syndrome in 2016, a film that will make you long to travel alone. Screenplay by Sean Grant, based on the novel by Melanie Joosten, fits perfectly into a claustrophobic thriller about an unhealthy relationship between two people. Despite the fairly common plot of the kidnapping, the behavior and characters of the characters cannot be called standard for such a story. The “romantic” relationship of the couple is subject to constant dynamics: the hunter becomes the prey, and then they switch places. Let’s turn to the plot and try to reveal the meaning of the film “Berlin Syndrome”.
The plot of the film tells about Claire (Teresa Palmer), a photographer from Australia. A tender girl with red hair, about whom her mother constantly worries, visits Berlin, interested in the architecture of the GDR. On one of her tourist outings on the street, she meets Andy (Max Riemelt), a local guy who teaches English. The actor perfectly played the role of a handsome and slightly shy guy, whose character is great for developing a romantic story.
However, his secrecy, a little strange habits speak of the secrets that he keeps. The couple spends two days walking around Berlin. The director conveyed the gloomy and disorienting state of recognizing a new city that Claire is subject to. Andy brings the girl to his apartment, where they have sex. The next morning, Claire realizes that Andy has locked her up. At first, everything is written off as an accident, and the couple again spends the night together. However, a day later, the girl finds many ominous signs that she will not get out of here so easily. The bleakness of the situation is heightened by the fact that Andy doesn’t look or act like a standard movie freak: he goes to work, teaches English, hangs out with friends, buys groceries, tells his father about his “new girlfriend”.
And only returning home reveals him as a mentally unstable person. Day after day, Claire remains inside the house, periodically trying to escape and taking over the opportunity to dominate her jailer, but very quickly everything returns to its place, and she again becomes a victim.
What is the meaning of the movie “Berlin Syndrome”?
Very important for the film is its title – it refers to the concept of “Stockholm syndrome”, a deviation that provokes warm feelings of the victim for his captor. Despite Claire and Andy’s apparently unhealthy relationship, some semblance of family comfort is created in their house. A man takes care of a girl, brings her gifts, cuts her hair, feeds her. In the end, the viewer’s feelings towards the maniac may change – we begin to see in Andy a little boy who was abandoned by his mother and who is trying to recreate the ghostly image of a family idyll.
However, the “ideal family” does not work, because this is the real world, and not the fantasies of a sick person. The apartment in which Claire is locked becomes more and more gloomy, the once pleasant and even cozy house turns into a dungeon. Now the windows are boarded up in the apartment, all the little things that can help Claire escape are removed, the water and lights are turned off. Claire is left with only a Polaroid, which becomes her salvation.
At the end of Berlin Syndrome, Claire manages to put a Polaroid photo inside one of Andy’s books. He distributes them in his class, and a girl named Franca, who has already seen the strangeness of her teacher, finds a picture. She goes to Andy’s house to help the girl, and they hide together when he returns. The girls manage to escape and Claire drives through the streets of Berlin, finally free. The meaning of such an ending is quite predictable: the world of family comfort built on sick fantasies turned out to be fragile.
In the movie Berlin Syndrome, we see how a person is left alone with danger: Andy hardly speaks, and Claire does not get any flashbacks that could tell more about the character. The viewer recognizes the character of the girl solely by her behavior inside the house: how she reacts to emergencies, how she spends time with herself, devoid of any sources of information. It is also curious how romantic relationships become a trap – the outwardly “measured” life of the kidnapper and the victim, in which there are even elements of care, can change dramatically due to Andy’s unstable state.