Director: Alexander Bakshaev
Starring: Naiden Angelov, Justine Assaf, Alexander Bakshaev
Linda (Sandra Bourdonnec ) and Jakob (Ludwig Reuter) spend nearly every moment of their lives together. Romantically entangled, the couple seems to have a relationship that others will never see in an entire lifetime. However, when Jakob begins having dark, violent dreams of Linda, in which she is seductively murdering him, he begins to have his doubts about the longevity of his commitment. How does any sensible boyfriend back out from a potentially homicidal breakup? Jakob makes the first move.
There is a lot going for this short film by Alexander Bakshaev and at first glance all of the elements mashed together can be quite a bit overwhelming. Pacing is slow, but deliberate, with a focus on character development over flair, and, at times, paints some beautiful and weird scenes into an intense tale of love and betrayal. The Devil of Kreuzberg works best when dialogue is removed and the actors are forced to convey relationships via actions instead. Some of the writing is ham-fisted, maybe even a bit forced at times, but pulls together with an offbeat story and some competent acting.
If you have read any of my previous reviews, you know that I enjoy sound scores and ambient music in my genre films and The Devil of Kreuzberg did a solid job of wrapping indie music and over indulgent (but oh-so-good) 1970s Euro fare into the experience. The music compliments the emotionally removed acting, though much of what is accomplished feels right at place with the surreal quality of the film. Several dance numbers, a focal point for the emotional intensity and darkness in which the characters wallow, are akin to watching an alluring sideshow act. Think Dario Argento directs an episode of Twin Peaks and you may be close to what was attempted within the director’s vision.
Alexander Bakshaev wears his influences proudly on sleeve with a forty minute wink and a nod to some of the delightfully bizarre Italian genre films of yesterday. Complete with occult and paranormal backdrops, The Devil of Kreuzberg re-imagines a more contemporary spin of the classic Giallo without losing sight of what made (and still makes) those films so fun to watch. Although a more full length romp would have made this salute to Italian cinema maestros more effective, I could not help but smile at one of the few modern films to at least try to emulate what has long been considered one of the most endearing periods of horror cinema.
I really want to watch this a second time, give it another spin and see how I feel after fully digesting what is occurring throughout the short running time. I was pleased by the willingness to try something different, drawn in by the film’s adoration of some of my favorite influential flicks, and left desiring a longer, more polished director’s cut. However, I salute Alexander Bakshaev for walking the path untraveled and recommend this to any fan of independent film or student of film making. The Devil of Kreuzberg hits all of the right notes like a teenage boy managing to unhook a bra without looking for the first time, accidentally on purpose, and I look forward to the evolution of this nostalgic, Eurotrash meets arthouse style. Well done.