Festival Review: Der Nachtmahr (2015)

Der Nachtmahr

A German horror film of Berlin clubs and imaginary creatures, Akiz’s Der Nachtmahr is a pulsating delirium of colourful and haunting images.

Requiem For A Dream

by Mark Wilshin

Der Nachtmahr

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Inspired by Henry Fuseli’s gothic painting The Nightmare (or Nachtmahr), Akiz’ debut feature plays with concepts of fantasy and reality, as we cut from one dream sequence back to reality – never quite sure if the incubus that Tina (Carolyn Genzkow) is haunted by is a nightmare or a living creature. Slowly evolving from one girl’s vision to a frightfest at a party, the creature – much like Füssli’s artwork – remains unexplained; strangely sexual with its compact biceps and craven fridge-robbing appetite, but also – with Der Nachtmahr coming to a climax on Tina’s 18th birthday – a complex symbol of adulthood and independence. It’s a wicked conceit, but wrapped up in the Berlin clubbing scene and millennials obsessing over Facebook posts and mobile phones, Akiz doesn’t seem to know where to go with it. There’s no real sexual, social, familial or personal anxiety for Tina to get caught up in, which underserves an otherwise impressive (and Carrie-esque) ending of female empowerment. There is though an aggressively thrumming soundtrack, and a vibrant colour palette that turns Tina’s family home into an expressionistic prism. But unfortunately, it’s all style over substance, as the internal logic of Der Nachtmahr quickly crumbles to nothing – with none of the characters’ actions or motives making much sense. Nevertheless, throbbing with an eery and uncanny tension, Der Nachtmahr is an enigmatic horror film, creeping under the skin just enough to eke out a nightmare or two.

Der Nachtmahr is now showing at the London Film Festival

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