Monday, November 03, 2008

Antibodies: Grade B

Antibodies (2005)
Wotan Wilke Möhring, André Hennicke, Hauke Diekamp. Writer-director Christian Alvart. (German, subtitled).

This update of Silence of the Lambs adds a religious ambiguity to the investigator but does not break new ground. Maybe we are just burned out on the serial killer theme, or maybe nobody can ever top Anthony Hopkins for emanating sheer pathological menace.

Möhring is the killer, captured by police in a riveting short scene before the titles, perhaps one of the best scenes in the movie. In prison, he won’t speak. A country policeman (Hennicke) interviews him in connection with a missing child in his town, and the killer suddenly starts speaking in cryptic riddles with the intention of messing with his mind, as Hopkins did with Foster. The policeman becomes obsessed with ascertaining whether this prisoner is the killer of the girl in his town. The killer claims she was dead when he got there, but he saw the real killer. He drops enough clues that the policeman begins to suspect his own son (Kiekamp). The thought drives the policeman nearly mad from religious guilt and a heavy-handed Biblical theme of Abraham and Isaac is played out. That could have been a good theme for recasting the whole story, but it is just thrown in at the end.

The directing and cinematography, though often bloody and violent, are outstanding and raise the film above average. Acting is only average though. The imprisoned killer is intelligent but also just batty, covering his cell walls with slogans and crude drawings of mutilation. Möhring does not have the stillness Hopkins used to convey menace. Policeman Hennicke is distractingly histrionic. The story sags badly while he discovers his shadow side amidst much breast-beating angst. There are a few late-breaking surprises that are just too clever, and the happy ending contradicts the film's noirish mood.

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