Thursday, 3 September 2015

Film #34: Nothing Bad Can Happen / Tore tanzt

Released: 2013
Directed by: Katrin Gebbe
Original title: Tore tanzt (Tore dances)

My plan to watch loads of German films over the summer didn’t really pan out, but this week I finally managed to watch a DVD I picked up on my last trip to Germany. And it’s definitely not one to watch when you’re feeling delicate.

Tore (Julius Feldmeier) is a young member of the Jesus Freaks movement who believes his occasional seizures are caused by the Holy Spirit. Even those closest to him are amused by his complete devotion to his religion. After a chance encounter with Benno (Sascha Alexander Gersak) and his wife and two stepchildren, Tore goes to stay with them. From the outset, there are hints that Benno is not as nice as he makes out – the way his eyes linger on Sanny, his teenage stepdaughter, and his complete lack of reaction when Tore hurts himself. In the face of Tore’s unyielding faith, Benno becomes more and more determined to break him.

Tore believes that this is all God’s test, and that he must suffer whatever Benno throws at him to show Sanny that she needs to escape before it’s too late. Any hope that Benno’s friends and family might stop him before his behaviour becomes too extreme are dashed as more and more of them partake in Tore’s abuse or simply stand by and watch it happen. I found myself shouting at the screen, telling Tore to fight back, but he is adamant that it is all part of a divine plan.

I also found myself questioning my own response to Tore. If my car broke down and someone tried to help me by praying, would I smirk behind his back like Benno and his family? Is Tore stupid to keep going back to be tortured? Is Benno a monster getting his kicks from abusing a naïve and vulnerable man? Who exactly is being tested?

Although some of the more extreme violence takes place just off camera, the film does contain scenes of animal cruelty, sexual assault, degradation, and psychological and physical violence. And perhaps the most disturbing thing? The note at the end stating that the film is inspired by true events. This is also alluded to in this interview with the director, although no details are given.

I was initially under the impression that this wasn’t available with English subtitles, but it appears to have been released (at least in the US) under the title ‘Nothing Bad Can Happen’. Having watched the German version, I can’t comment on the quality of the subtitles or confirm the film’s certificate, but I would be extremely surprised if it wasn’t an 18.  

While by no means easy to watch, Tore tanzt is acted and directed with aplomb and will stay with me for quite some time.

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