German cinema, it must be said, remains relatively unknown worldwide.
Films such as Metropolis and Run Lola Run might spring to some minds, perhaps; Goodbye Lenin more recently. Das Boot and Downfall are more obvious, contributions to an extensive post WWII catalogue. But, for whatever reason, Germany has not produced that much that ends up subbed, dubbed, or otherwise sent out for the English speakers amongst us to consume. If we are missing out on films of the quality of Christian Alvart’s Antibodies, then it is entirely our loss.
A brutal murderer, Seiler (Heinz Hoenig), is captured by police after a bloody shootout, admitting to the murder and torture of thirteen young boys. Police believe he’s killed many more besides - but he’s unwilling to talk.
Michael Martens (Wotan Wilke Möhring), a policeman in a provincial town just outside Berlin, is still tormented by his inability to solve the murder of another child - Lucia Flieder - murdered a year and a half ago. His small town remains riven by suspicion: Seiler's capture seems like the news they’ve been waiting for.
Martens isn't so sure. He travels in to Berlin to meet Seiler, and see if he really can close the case that has come to define him. The murderer who talks to no-one starts to talk to him, but seems to confirm Marten’s worst suspicions. As he slowly becomes drawn into Seiler's vicious world, everyone becomes a suspect - and Martens must solve the case before it kills him.
That Antibodies owes a debt to Silence of the Lambs is clear and amusingly winked at. But while it borrows the format, the rest is done entirely by Alvart and his talented cast. And done brilliantly.
Möhring turns in a great performance as the tortured police officer, slowly pulled apart by the seedy world he finds himself in. Hoenig seems to relish playing the bad guy, interrogating the moral assumptions of his interrogaters and working his way into Marten’s head. André Hennicke is equally good as the lecherous, ambitious police chief, only in it for his own ends.
Alvart's direction is assured, seamlessly cutting the action back and forth between past and present. The tension builds towards a fantastic climax, some twists more expected than others, but it certainly kept me guessing until near the end.
There are some brutal moments, and Alvart doesn't pull any pucnhes. But all in all its great entertainment, and makes compelling watching if you have the stomach for it. Unfortunate to have to compete with a new Bond movie - if you're unmoved by the tuxedos Antibodies could be just what you are looking for. And if this is the current standard of German cinema, I hope to be seeing a lot more of it.