Wotan Wilke Mohring and Andre Hennicke in Antikorper (Antibodies).
Antibodies (Antikorper) is Germany's answer to Silence of the Lambs. It has a very creepy serial killer and a law enforcement officer from a small town. It adds religion and sex to the mix which causes it to eventually find its own footing.
The movie opens with a gripping scene of the police capturing a serial killer, Gabriel Engel. He is a pedophile who not only rapes, but tortures his young male victims. He uses their blood to paint with. He masturbates while describing his first kill to the police.
Michael Martens is his polar opposite. He is married with two kids and owns a farm in a small community. He is the town's part time constable. He is a devoted catholic. His home town was recently shocked by the discovery of a local girl being killed and having her groin mutilated.
Michael is convinced Engel is responsible for the girl's death, even though all of his other victims have been boys. When Michael hears that Engel has been captured he travels to the big city to interrogate him. If he can prove Engel killed her, the town's population can stop looking suspiciously at each other. As Michael says to his wife, "This is a nightmare and it'll never end. This village needs to find its peace."
The moment Engel sees Michael he demands to talk to him. Michael is pure and good while Engel is as evil as Satan. Engels first words to him are, "What did you expect? Hannibal Lecter?" Michael asks if he killed the girl, but Engel wants to play mind games. "But what about when you fuck your wife, what do you think about?" He asks.
They continue having conversations as Michael investigates Engel with a big city policeman. During one conversation Engel tells Michael that, "Evil is a virus. Highly contagious. Highly destructive. You're already infected." Sure enough we find that although Michael may be good and righteous, he is not perfect.
I can not give away too many details but the movie moves in a very dramatic direction. It leads to a startling climax that had my stomach in knots. It contains a rather long Bible quote and some CGI deer. You will either love this or hate it. I was mowed over by the sheer stress of it all.
At over two hours it could have been trimmed better. For sheer tension I have not sat through a more nerve-wracking film. The movie opens and closes with two amazing sequences. A little of what happens in between could have been cut.
Heinz Hoenig and Wotan Wilke Mohring in Antikorper (Antibodies).
As Eric said, Silence of the Lambs was clearly the inspiration for this movie. In one scene Gabriel Engel even calls humans sheep and begins baaing like one. He plays mind games with small town cop Michael Martens much as Hannibal Lecter did with Clarice Starling. The script is aware of these similarities and wisely pokes fun at them. But comparisons aside, it stands on its own as a gripping thriller and the creepy performance by Andre Hennicke makes Gabriel Engel a truly memorable villain.
The scene where Martens and big city detective Seiler break in to Engel's apartment to investigate and search for clues is very good. It's reminiscent of those gritty, urban cop movies from the 1970s with Seiler as the wily veteran cop and Martens as the inexperienced rookie. Heinz Hoenig is terrific as the tough as nails, but kindhearted older cop, who slowly gains respect for the small town constable. He proves himself as adept at playing dramatic scenes as he did at comedy in 2004's Seven Dwarf's.
The movie opens with Gabriel Engel opining the whims of fate on the fame of serial killers, “The world is unfair. Even to people like us. Pedro Alonso Lopez committed 300 sex murders. Now, 20 years later, who remembers him? Not a soul. Jack the Ripper is world-famous, and for what? Five bitches. Five! And Charley Manson. The hippie they called "Our Emperor" didn't even commit one murder himself.” With his penchant for painting quasi-religious portraits with his victim's blood, Gabriel Engel is indeed evil personified.
The ending that Eric only hinted at is definitely a real nail-biter. I won't give too much more away except to say that it deals with Marten's troubled 13 year old son who was friends with the little girl from their village that was murdered. I enjoyed every minute of it right up until those damn fake looking deer showed up. It is symbolism of the most obvious type and it doesn't fit with the realistic tone the rest of the movie has achieved up till that moment.
Director Christan Alvart says in an interview that's included in the extras on the DVD that he didn't want to make a movie that glorified serial killers. He was certainly successful and in my opinion it makes this movie superior to Silence of the Lambs. Whereas that movie creates some sympathy for Hannibal Lecter and ends with his escape from jail, Gabriel Engel gets no such kind treatment from Alvert. He is shown as a completely despicable human being from beginning to end.
I cannot end this review without mentioning the cinematography. It is quite stunning, with Alvert setting up some of his shots like a painting. Watch the scene where the helicopter lands near Martens' farmhouse. My only complaint is the cheesy CGI deer scene. It's an unnecessary gimmick. But for this one tiny misstep Antibodies is a great movie.
Nina Proll and Wotan Wilke Mohring in Antibodies.
This is a fairly tense movie at times, but as Eric mentioned, there are long periods in the middle that could have been trimmed. I also have to say up front that this is not my favorite genre. Some people find the topic of serial killers and the lurid details of their crimes to be an interesting subject, but I can't say I'm one of them. So from the very beginning this movie had to work uphill to entertain me.
That it managed to do so at all, says something about its quality. I was more interested in the characters of Michael and Seiler than I was in Engel himself. Seiler in particular brings some life to the story and the interactions between him and the provincial Michael are some of the most entertaining ones. Engel is supposed to be a master manipulator, but he doesn't say anything that's profound or deep. He's disgusting and creepy, but he gets inside Michael's head far too easily.
The real tension in the story comes when Michael begins to suspect his son. All through the movie there is foreshadowing that it would come down to that, but it's still played out in a very tense manner. Although I guessed the truth of the mystery, I was never sure how it would be resolved.
Both of my brothers mentioned the CGI deer and I agree that they're the worst part of the movie. It's not the fact that they're CGI that's the problem, but simply their behavior. The CGI is bad and they actually look a little creepy and fake, but that's minor compared to how they determine the outcome to the story.
What's interesting about the movie is that here you have a mystery that plays out almost in reverse. It begins where most mysteries end, with the capture of the villain. The fact that it only gets more tense from there is a testament to how well it was made.
It's definitely not a movie I ever care to watch again, but it earned my begrudging respect by the time it was done, even if it did take a little too long to get there.
Photos © Copyright Kinowelt Filmproduktion (2005)