Directed by: Udo Flohr
Written by: Peer Meter / Udo Flohr / Antonia Roeller
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Effigy - Poison and the City
Almost unheard of for the time, Cato Böhmer (Elise Thiemann) is a new hire as a clerk for the city of Bremen. The year is 1828 so you can see the problem. This isn't a job for a woman, or so all the men think. Her arrival is considered a joke... at first. At around the same time, the city is experiencing some political turbulence over where its future lies. The railroad which is growing in popularity, or the continued use of ships.
But back to Cato and what happens just after her arrival. A medical situation has arisen that requires investigation. A suspected poisoning that at first is outright dismissed as bad housekeeping. But as things progress, Gesche Gottfried (Suzan Anbeh) goes from being considered in possible danger from some unknown suspect, to herself becoming suspect number one. Some may recognize the name Gesche Gottfried and rightfully so. She was a serial killer thought to have killed over a dozen people.
As the investigation continues, and Cato Böhmer continues to fight against the male powers that be, she can't help but think Gesche is manipulating everyone around her, and she is right. This isn't a regular case of murder, and Gottfried seems to relish in the game. But what is her motive? Why has she been doing this, is she clinically insane? As the investigation continues, using all the state of the art forensic techniques of the time, the push back on this case becomes more evident. There comes a point when the truth doesn't even matter to some people, for political reasons, even a scapegoat would do. Senator Droste (Christoph Gottschalch) is in the political crosshairs over his support for the rail, and it does bleed into the investigation. But in the end, it all comes down to Cato against Gesche. Who can outmaneuver who and finally put this case to rest?
Udo Flohr has directed a film that is without question nice to look at. The pacing may feel a little slow sometimes but it's always picked back up quickly. From what I can tell, the character portrayals were rather good but since this is a subtitled film, I can't say for certain. What I did experience watching through expressionism and mannerisms felt like they were done well, especially with an excellent background score to really drive the narrative home.
There were a few scenes that didn't really work for me. The entire scene involving red rain, that ended up being sand from the desert felt pretty pointless. While I watched it, I couldn't help but wonder if this film was taking a supernatural turn. That wasn't the case but my point is this. Although it was kind of cool to see, what was the point of it? It did nothing for the story and only complicated things. Even if only a little. I also couldn't help but notice how nice and new things seemed to look everywhere. For a small working class city, that just didn't make sense but putting aside the cleanliness of the film, Effigy - Poison and the City looks fantastic. Production really could have taken place during 1828.
This was a title I would compare to the old days of movie making. Days when attention was given to characters, and much less importance was placed on super fast editing and flashy special effects. This film is all about the story it's trying to tell, and less concerned with bombarding everyone with so many images and edits that it becomes a haze. Effigy - Poison and the City is a great little thriller that unsettles as well as acts as a slight history lesson. 3.5/5 stars.