(2018, 81 min)
Director: Drew Lint
Studio: TLA Releasing
Matthew is a young Canadian trying to make a fresh start in Berlin, but he feels the isolation of living in a strange, new city. When he meets the beautiful and charismatic Matthias, he is immediately entranced. Soon Matthew's interest escalates, becoming an obsession. He begins to transform himself to embody the object of his desire, cutting his hair, and getting new clothes. When Matthias gets into a motorcycle accident, the opportunity is too perfect. Matthew can now become Matthias. In a coma in the hospital, Matthias' waking life, dreams and memories blur. Where the real ends, the artificial begins.
It wouldn't be too difficult to cut an entire hour out of this dramatic thriller. While the meandering approach does add some realism and earthiness, plus a lot of fascinating detail, it also leaves the audience unable to piece together disparate, seemingly irrelevant elements into something coherent. Still, it's finely written, directed and played, and it's packed with superb moments.
Sensual and dreamlike, this story of obsession has a remarkable attention to detail, capturing the observations and feelings of its characters. Writer-director Drew Lint establishes the story and people with largely wordless filmmaking that's evocative and intriguing, and also rather experimentally obtuse. But this encourages the actors to use their physicality to bring their roles to vivid life.
After moving to Berlin, French-Canadian 20-something lifeguard Matthew (Lahaie) spots the beautiful Matthias (Endlicher) at his pool and begins to follow him both online and around the city, but struggles to get up the nerve to speak to him. As be begins to act more and more like a stalker, Matthew gets a matching buzz cut. Then when Matthias ends up in a coma after a motorcycle accident, Matthew moves into his flat and assumes his identity. This of course leads to a confrontation, and an unexpected connection between these two men.
Shot in a wash of white light and electronic sounds, the film looks terrific, as Lint works with cinematographer Ann Tipper and editor Andi Pek to draw the audience into Matthew's perspective as he yearns for both a connection and an identity. Underwater scenes are strikingly rippled fantasies, while his obsessive dreams have an unnerving realism to them. There's also a subplot in which Matthias is digitally scanned by an artist (Larnes) for an exhibition, which adds an unexpected angle to the film's physicality.
Performances are of course very physical, and both actors dive fearlessly in, revealing their characters through their eyes and bodies. Endlicher's confidence is coolly echoed in Lahaie's yearning; these two men are nothing alike under the skin, other than the fact that both are driven by lust. It's never quite clear if what we're watching is real, imagined or foreshadowing, and yet it feels earthy and authentic. And there's also a bleakly humorous undercurrent that plays further on the idea of self-image and conformity.
Even at this brief running time, the film sometimes feels like a short that has been extended by a number of rather random sequences (such as Matthias' various friends tending to him in the hospital). The lack of dialog adds to this impression, as characters never quite deepen beneath the surfaces and much of the film seems to consist of imagery from Matthew's fantasy life. But where the story goes is still chillingly disturbing. And there are intriguing elements throughout that add interest both in the narrative and the themes.
-- Review by Rich Kline (http://www.shadowsonthewall.co.uk)