Cannes 2013: “NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN”
Despite the film’s title, something bad can happen, and boy, does it ever.
The debut feature from writer/director Katrin Gebbe premiered at the Cannes Film Market last week and promptly sold to Austin-based Drafthouse Films for North American release. There is a motif that runs through many of the Drafthouse acquisitions to date – I won’t say what it is for fear of spoilers, but let’s just say that NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN will be right at home in the Drafthouse family of films.
Tore (stunning newcomer Julius Feldmeier) is a pale, gangly adherent to Christian punk collective ‘The Jesus Freaks’ who ends up moving in with a white trash family after helping them with a broken-down car. But what at first seems like a means of stability for the transient teen becomes a test of his faith as the family starts using him as a scapegoat for all their inherent resentments toward each other. The erratically-tempered (step)father Benno (Sascha Alexander Gersak) is increasingly threatened by Tore’s gentleness and composure, which serve to emphasize Benno’s own flawed, violent character. Framing the boy as some kind of ‘competition’ as a role model for his family, Benno responds by attempting to strip Tore first of his privileges, but then of his faith and humanity. But as the abuse progresses, Tore’s refusal to react only raises Benno’s ire further.
The film is a startling study of self-deception, of the need to dissociate and blame rather than accept our own complicity in situations of domestic violence. Tore practically walks into this situation carrying his own head on a platter, like a messianic figure delivering them all from their own hateful hearts. It’s full of squirm-inducing moments of psychological and physical cruelty that I don’t want to give away here, but suffice it to say that the family goes further into their own darkness than you would expect given the film’s subtle and somewhat dreamy tone, calling up comparisons to films as varied as SNOWTOWN and MARTYRS. An audible gasp could be heard from the Cannes audience when the film’s end credits scrolled up the sentence “Based on True Events”.
The film is very deliberately paced, and its ties to genre cinema are tenuous, but those who’ve been following and enjoying Drafthouse’s slate of releases know what they’re in for, and certainly won’t want to miss this riveting example of transcendent horror.