Dir: Andres Veiel. Ger.2006. 82mins.
A severely minimalist exercise situated onthe interface between cinema and theatre, TheKick is a rigorously executed, highly disturbing combination of performanceand documentary reportage. Two performers - a woman and a man - act outstatements from a range of people involved in a real-life murder case, sheddingunforgiving light on the social health of contemporary Germany.
Terrific,versatile performances from its two actors make the film much more rivetingthan a superficial description might suggest, but the forbiddingly austerestyle - which bears superficial comparison with Lars Von Trier'sDogvilleand Manderlay- might prove off-putting for distributors. At Berlin the film screened in Panorama.
Adapted on atheatre production by director Veiel and co-writer Gesine Schmidt, The Kick is based on interviews conductedwith people involved in a murder case that happened in 2002 in Potzlow, a village some 60km to the north of Berlin.
Two brothers,Marcel and Marco Schönfeld - the latter newlyreleased from prison - ganged up with a friend to fatally terrorisea 16-year-old boy with learning difficulties, MarinusSchöbel. After Marinus waskilled - Marcel's brutal method was inspired by the film American History X - he was buried, and only discovered a fewmonths later.
An account,rather than an enactment, of the court case plays out on the bare stage of aloft, the only props being a bench and a raised cabin with a window, standingin for the dock. Actors Wrage and Lerchplay all the people involved in the case, regardless of gender: defendants,prosecutors and witnesses.
Monologues aredelivered in long takes, with the actors shifting seamlessly from one characterto another, changes of identity sometimes signalledonly by adjustments of lighting or shifts in body language - often withmiraculous subtlety.
Wrage and Lerchcreate pronounced characters with extreme economy, using as little as a slumpof the shoulders or a look of muted defiance, making the film an acting masterclass in well-tuned understatement.
Veiel's Brechtiantactics place the viewer at a distance, enabling us to make judgments on thecase unaffected by distracting emotional rhetoric. What particularly emerges inthe story is the implicit collusion of the killers' parents, and of Marco'sgirlfriend Sandra, a fellow adept of the extreme right who proves particularlychilling in her talent for denial.
The film gives avivid picture of contemporary Germany, of a legacy of deprivation and discontentin the East, and of a youth culture that has taken refuge in neo-Nazi ideology.The Kick could not remotely bedescribed as enjoyable, but it is a formidable achievement.