Movie Review - The Devil in Kreuzberg
I’ve decided to omit a rating from this film review. Normally, I scale movies from A to D—I’ve yet to give an F. Still, I’m confident that a movie will come along that will be such a spectacular shit show that I can comfortably say that there was nothing good about it. The Devil in Kreuzberg is not that film, but all the same, it’s one that I found nearly impossible to rate along a traditional scale. Alex Bakshaev’s The Devil in Kreuzberg is an oddity in horror cinema. The film clearly pays homage to the Italian gothic horror movement of the 1970s and splices in a touches of both American and German cinema with some of the aesthetic choices selected for use by the director. The film is atmospheric, well-made under a strict and extremely low budget, and has a disquieting plot that is engaging if not a little puzzling.
The narrative follows writer Jakob and his girlfriend Linda’s relationship. To begin, the couple appears to be happily in love and passionate about each other. Jakob is soon distressed by dreams and grows more afraid of Linda who is revealed to be cursed to kill her love. As Jacob’s paranoia grows, he enlists the aid of his friend and apparent hitman, Kurt, to kill her.
Visually, this film is striking. The choice of color palette coupled with geometric scene staging is very pleasing on the eye and well worth a watch on its own. I’m reminded a bit of Fritz Lang's “M,” as each scene is carefully crafted to maximize the frame-space and add to a definitive growing sense of paranoia. What’s key to this plot, is that there is no sense of time. This movie could easily have a timeline of a few weeks or a few days. Ambiguity is Bakshaev’s ally, and it works to tweak reality in such a way that the supernatural feels like it’s hiding just off screen.
I was pleased with the acting once I fully understood the tone of the film. At times the character seemed melodramatic, or even under dramatic. But these touches were all part of the larger world of gothic cinema. It’s also worth mentioning that the music may have been the best attribute of this film. I’m a firm believer that sound, or the lack of, is a key component in horror cinema. The best horror films have carefully crafted soundtracks that add to the film without detracting from the plot. Overall this is an extremely well-made and interesting film. It’s clear the director took care with this story and allowed just enough of his own choices to guide viewers while allowing them to expand on the story with their imaginations.
To return to the start of this review, I mentioned I was going to reframe from rating this film, I will now elaborate on that statement. The truth is that I didn’t like this film, but I can admit that there’s something special, interesting, and worthwhile here. And to be honest, I believe this film is another in a rapidly growing list of “experimental horror” that relies less on typical horror-film tropes, and more on forgotten classic cinema techniques. I also hesitate to call this a horror film but the presence of the supernatural, murder, and a subversive narrative places this film closer to horror more than any other genre. In closing I believe this film is worth watching. It’s a good movie, but I suspect a film such as this one will polarize horror fans. You’ll either like it or hate it.
- Tiffany McKeever