Bursting with bags of inventive energy, imaginative twists and unexpected left turns, German fantasy thriller Snowflake (Schneeflöckchen) serves up a gleeful, knowing blend of the crime caper, fairytale and surrealist film genres to produce a truly oddball revenge flick.
Set in the environs of a near-future dystopian Berlin where society is dysfunctional and law and order minimal, two lowlife crooks Javid (Reza Brojerdi) and Tan (Erkan Acar) kill with impunity and seemingly without compunction. Finding an extract of a screenplay, the pair are stunned to discover that the events of their lives - even the words they are speaking right then - are all set down in the script. The two killers try to break free of their predetermined fate by tracking down the movie’s author, who turns out to be a hapless dentist and amateur auteur named Arend Remmers - the name of Snowflake’s actual writer. But even as they try to force him to change their story, they are being tracked by hunters.
A young woman named Eliana (Xenia Assenaza) is determined to exact retribution for her parents’ death, with or without the help of her loyal but worried bodyguard Carson (David Masterson). With the help of Carson’s delusional father, she attempts to hire assassins from the fringes of the European underground. Yet there are more agents - and more agendas - in play in this deadly game of cat and mouse than anyone involved has realised.
Stylish, self-confident and oozing with an assured sense of cool, Snowflake struts its sassy stuff through a whole series of ridiculous and often extremely violent set pieces as its complex plot unfolds in a bizarre world populated by grotesque and weird characters and improbable - or completely impossible - situations. This is a beautifully staged and shot low-budget film which fills the screen with extraordinary images. Given that the entire movie was shot with DSLR cameras (and even allowing for post-production enhancement), framing, lighting and colour are all unexpectedly high quality.
Some reviewers have made comparisons between Remmers’ style of storytelling and the work of Tarantino or the Cohen brothers. Those are not outrageous points of reference, but there’s more whimsy and sentiment here than you’d see in a Tarantino flick, and more darkness, bloodshed and ugliness than surface in any plot by the Cohens.
The split timeline, the supernatural plot twists, and the self-referencing “meta” conceits of the script could result in a confusing mess. But directors Kolmerer and James keep a pretty tight rein on proceedings, and for the most part steer a clear path through the disorder they have conjured up. There’s great fun to be had from watching the characters attempt to rationalise the preordained world they inhabit and wrestle with ways to change their story for the better.
Not every stop-off on this pan-European journey is a triumph, and the film is arguably twenty minutes too long. Yet Snowflake remains a thoroughly entertaining diversion through the absurdist hinterlands of European indie film culture. Only an extremely confident screenplay would deploy a cannibal in a chicken mask, an electrified vigilante and an incarcerated fascist copper to explore the themes of free will, vengeance and redemption.
SNOWFLAKE / CERT: UNRATED / DIRECTOR: ADOLFO J. KOLMERER, WILLIAM JAMES / SCREENPLAY: AREND REMMERS / STARRING: REZA BROJERDI, ERKAN ACAR, ALEXANDER WOLF / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW