Dir: Katrin Gebbe
Starring: Julius Feldmeier, Sascha Alexander Gersak, Annika Kuhl, Swantje Kohlhof
Reviewed by Monte Yazzie (www.thecodafilms.com)
A pulsating score threateningly introduces a young man led towards a lake. The music grows more ominous as the camera moves in and out of focus finally finding the young man forcefully submerged beneath the water. This aggressive action isn’t meant for dangerous intentions but instead portrays the Christian ceremony of baptism. This introduction is just a piece of the relationship director Katrin Gebbe is trying to convey between unwavering religious faith and volatile nihilism. It’s a subject matter that is initially handled with keen subtlety but progresses into distracted blatancy. Gebbe, sure footed along the way, attempts to explore an interesting aspect of religion in “Nothing Bad Can Happen”.
Tore (Julius Feldmeier) is in a church where members are known as the “Jesus Freaks”, a youthful group who dress in punk apparel and conduct contemporary worship services in industrial settings. This is his family; not much is known about his past besides the presence of medical seizures that render him helpless. Tore, who isn’t shy about sharing his faith, invites a skeptical man named Benno to his church. While at the service Tore is overwhelmed by a seizure and Benno rescues him. Tore is given recovery in Benno’s home with his wife and two children. Tore is treated as part of the family at first but things turn depraved as Benno unleashes his own “tests” of faith.
Gebbe is tackling difficult subject matter with equally difficult imagery. This leaves opportunity for criticism, both justified and unjustified, but also confusion concerning the qualities demonstrated by the faith based community. Tore’s journey is one that transitions from diligence to carelessness. His staunch belief in the involvement of God in his everyday life, depicted in an early scene where the power of prayer fixes a broken down vehicle, is a guiding principle that grows with each test of will. Gebbe utilizes faith to forward the progression of Tore’s battle with Benno who is initially accommodating towards his devout beliefs. However, it’s an artificial reaction for Benno who instead implements trials that torment the steadfast diligence of the young man. It begins as intuitive questioning but progresses to physical violence, one altercation leading to another, before Gebbe moves into more torturous and vicious territory. It’s a transition that abandons the restrained nuances involving the proposed inquiry of what it means to be faithful. How much will Tore endure to show his allegiance to God? Through the continuing and escalating gruesome presentation, Tore’s faith is rendered a naïve attribute.
In Pascal Laugier’s equally challenging film “Martyrs” the suffering for insight is forcefully implied on the subject. However in Gebbe’s film Tore willingly commits to the torment, led towards reasoning by his own interpretations of the situation. Whether misguided or divinely directed the film never straightforwardly takes a position, though the debate will be made that it leans one way depending on your stance on the subject matter.
“Nothing Bad Can Happen” is a difficult film to watch. Initially director Katrin Gebbe guides the film with subtle observations on the polarizing aspects of religious belief. Unfortunately, the thought provoking subject matter is skewed by an overindulgence of shocking elements.
2.50 out of 5.00