DIRECTOR: CHRISTIAN ALVART | SCREENPLAY: CHRISTIAN ALVART, SEBASTIAN FITZEK | STARRING: MORITZ BLEIBTREU, JASNA FRITZI BAUER, LARS EIDINGER, FAHRI YARDIM
Linda (Bauer) is an artist trying to free herself from an abusive ex and unwanted attentions of some new fools when she discovers a bodying laying on the beach. Paul Herzfeld (Bleibtrue) is a pathologist failing to retain a relationship with his increasingly cut off daughter after a marital break-up. When his silver table’s bodies start to incorporate cryptic messages, the dissector and the creator join forces to stop a serial killer and save their own sanity in Antibodies’ director Christian Alvart’s new feature, Cut Off.
Adapted by Alvart from a novel by Sebastian Fitzek and Michael Tsokos, while there is the ongoing murder-mystery come race-against-time, there is also a more ponderous plot about accepting responsibility for our actions versus the freedom of the body. This is where the film really excels because while it does contain some don’t-eat-your-dinner-while-watching mortuary sequences, the harshest scenes are where characters evaluate how to cope with trauma; as a “buyer beware”, there is a truly horrid (though justified) assault sequence. The whole thing is then refracted through the idea of technological and psychological control. A courtroom sequence does a swift but devastating job of showing how one seemingly unfair decision can cause us to change our entire outlooks, with Jakub Bejnarowicz’s cinematography succeeding in providing a grubby tone that evokes the depersonalised nature of the law rather than simply seeming seedy. The pacing, in general, moves the story along nicely, while some slinky editing periodically pulls the rug on previously accepted character portraits.
Luckily, the cast are incredibly strong. Bleibtrue excels as the dogged father trying to right his wrongs, while Bauer as artist Linda is believable despite the physically able way she switches pens for knives. Dissection is not something you’d think you could be talked through in a phone call. Enno Hesse leavens the tone as an earnest intern, though quite how anyone could be as dozy as his character is is by the by. Lars Eidinger is a by-the-numbers gurning sadist, but he is good at it and his manic turns inject vim that causes this crime drama to turn action thriller at key moments.
Cut Off mixes some improbable elements with a great cast and a keen eye for the cinematic. It’s a cracking crime caper that will leave you considering some unsettling questions in quiet moments afterwards.