Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Robber (Der Rauber)

"The Robber" by Benjamin Heisenberg follows a man who simultaneously strives for recognition and wants to stay anonymous. He's a runner-cum-bank robber, Johann Rettenberger, and when he's released from prison on parole (after serving a sentence for armed robbery), he continues to be both of those things. He ascends in the sport out of nowhere (making his parole officer happy), and seems as if he could be poised for great things. But he is tied down by his theft, which leads him to steal cars (sometimes right under their owners' noses) and sometimes, rather sadistically, to leave people stranded in random locations for safety's sake. Yet, in retrospect, these events are pretty much inconsequential to the film and the character's arc. This goes to show how disconnected the film is; it really has little clue what it's about with a name like "The Robber."

The film is centered around Andreas Lust's performance in the lead. His sense of desperation helps the film out quite a bit, but at the same time, his insecurity in the role can be seen, especially in the scenes with the parole officer, where he verges on histrionics. This is a role where the actor has to be impeccable, and Lust, despite being strong, falls short. But he doesn't have the best support in the world, either: Heisenberg, working from a fictionalized novel by Martin Prinz (who collaborated on the screenplay), can't do much with banal plot developments, like a subplot with an obligatory love interest (Franziska Weisz) who obviously ends up causing a bit of trouble for Johann, and the film thus takes its place alongside the other films of the genre.

That's not to say it doesn't have its perks. There are some quite disarming moments. For example, one scene, set in a movie theater, does a lot by going "Shirin"-style and not showing the film playing, but only focusing on Johann and his girlfriend, and the effect is nicely curious. And, in general, the film's cinematography and lighting are stunning. There is bravura motion photography, and there are also more than a couple striking images, such as a follow shot that creates an extremely disorienting effect. Much of the film looks like it was painted. But that only partially makes up for the film's narrative fumbling, and the final shot is nowhere near as powerful as it could have been. Maybe remaking the film in America, with a younger actor (Andrew Garfield), will lead to greatness, but the parts will probably not be in order, and I think we'll have to simply regard "The Robber" and long for what could have been. C+

No comments: