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Berlin Syndrome 2017

Berlin Syndrome

Berlin Syndrome

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When passion becomes possession.

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About the Berlin Syndrome 💬

  • Locked in a nightmare.

A passionate holiday romance takes an unexpected and sinister turn when an Australian photographer wakes one morning in a Berlin apartment and is unable to leave...

A riveting psychological thriller from acclaimed director Cate Shortland (Somersault, Lore), BERLIN SYNDROME features a raw and compelling performance from Teresa Palmer.

While holidaying in Berlin, the Australian photojournalist, Clare (Teresa Palmer), meets Andi (Max Riemelt), a charismatic local man and there is an instant attraction between them. A night of passion ensues. But what initially appears to be the start of a romance suddenly takes an unexpected and sinister turn when Clare wakes the following morning to discover Andi has left for work and locked her in his apartment. An easy mistake to make, of course, except Andi has no intention of letting her go again. Ever.


Q: What is this story about for you?

BERLIN SYNDROME is the story of a young woman, desperate to explore a cooler, more cultured place than ''backwards'' Australia. She wants to reinvent herself as an artist, hoping that Berlin will take away the stench of suburban Brisbane. She doesn't realize - like most of us - that the ordinary, the mundane, the simple is often filled with its own magic. When she meets Andi, he seems to encompass the European ideal - she is enraptured and soon entrapped. For him, she is a vessel to hold and fill with fantasies. He wants nothing of the real. Andi and Clare are the answer to each other's dreams. But Clare does not want violence; she wants inspiration and love. She is addicted to love. He is addicted to control.

Q: What was it about this story that you were drawn to?

I was interested in the characters and the extreme situation.

Clare is obsessed with details. Details end up making her days. She escapes her physical body and becomes her mind to survive. She is fragile and self-conscious and becomes strong and resourceful. Nothing is clear-cut with her. Nothing makes sense. As the film progresses she realizes she may die. She also realizes the beauty of what she left behind in Australia: family and the place that created her. She is an extreme version of many of us: rejecting her childhood life and then coming to see the beauty of it. She goes through various stages in the film: fighting to get out, living in fear, and then coming to acceptance. But this acceptance shifts suddenly, when death is shoved in her path. She becomes a fighter in the end.

Sociopaths interest me, so I was fascinated by a character like Andi that can completely compartmentalize his life. Someone who can bury his transgressions and remake himself - both these characters reinvent. That interests me: the idea that underneath the construction we are fluid. Clare reinvents out of need, she watches him, listens and reacts. Out of pure survival. Andi reinvents himself by hiding what he is from society. An English teacher who romanticizes his ideal woman but then wants to entrap her, make her his perfect study, utterly under his power. Andi is the product of his environment, brought up in the GDR, a shadowy utopia, missing his mother, and perhaps hating her for leaving.

Q: What themes do you explore in this film?

Various themes are intertwined in this story: sex and violence, the idea of power, and the idea of creating and metamorphosis.

Both characters are running from the ordinary. Clare first longs for intimacy and then freedom.

Andi longs for perfection. He wants his dream relationship and will subjugate and violate to obtain it. When Clare, his subject becomes too familiar he longs to get rid of her, to replace her with a new model. Violence and murder a bi-product of his goal.

Q: What is your favorite scene in the film?

Shooting at Andi's father's house was a highlight, as this was one of my favorite locations. We became friendly with the owner whose parents had built the house just before WW2 and as a teenager, he had lived there under the GDR. He had many stories and the most wonderful garden and ceramics.

I always love shooting in nature so shooting in the forest was also a great day. We shot in one location all day - heaven.

I also liked the Christmas scene where Clare speaks of home - of the Cicadas in Queensland. This dialogue came out of rehearsal, so felt really fresh and real to me. Clare was both vulnerable and strong here and Andi hates her for revealing her humanity. Her history. She makes him realize how lonely he is. It is the moment he decides to kill her.

But I have to say that working with Germain McMicking made every day good. He is a really intelligent and calm person. He is unafraid and willing to take great creative risks.

Q: What was it like working with Max and Teresa?

Max and Teresa are good people and both wanted to do something raw and truthful. I came to like them both enormously. We could be vulnerable around each other so we could explore without trying to be impressive. Like many directors, I wanted them to be comfortable enough so they could stop trying and just be the characters. We laughed a lot. They supported and respected each other tremendously, which made each day a joy. At the end they gave me a beautiful bangle engraved with ''meine'' which means mine, a line from the film. We all have a piece of each other, after such an intense time.


Q: What is this story about for you?

For me BERLIN SYNDROME is about many things, be it man's never-ending search for meaning and connection in life, or the destructive impact that past events can have on you if you let them. I also wanted to touch on the loneliness and isolation I've felt when traveling, despite being surrounded by people.

Q: What was it about this story that you were drawn to?

Melanie's novel is so beautifully written that it drew me in straight away. Also at the time, I had just seen a relationship end and became interested in dramatizing the breakdown of a relationship, where one person wishes to escape but where the other desperately cling onto the idea of what the couple could be.

Q: How did you approach the adaptation? What were the biggest challenges?

Like I do any adaptation I looked to convey the tone and heart of the source material without limiting myself to its plot, action or characters. Thankfully, the author was supportive of me 'opening up' her work and bringing to it my own ideas, beliefs, and themes and crafting the best possible screen story that I could.


Q: What is this story about for you?

BERLIN SYNDROME is about two characters that meet by fate on the street one day. Clare is a backpacker from Australia and Andi is an English teacher, Berlin born and bred. They're sort of inextricably drawn to each other through past traumas. Both seeking love and intimacy, but both with very different ways of approaching this. Clare approaches it with openness, and Andi approaches it with a need to control, which leads him to lock her up in his apartment.

Q: What was it about this story that you were drawn to?

When I first read the script I was blown away, it was such a page-turner. I couldn't put it down. It's a survival story, a love story and it has a lot of intimacy to it that was extremely powerful. I was particularly interested in the characters in the film and the way they are drawn to each other, despite being on different ends of the spectrum of good and evil.

Q: How did you prepare for the shoot? What was involved?

My pre-production time on BERLIN SYNDROME was quite intense. From the moment we landed in Berlin, I spent almost every day with Cate, going through the script, looking at visual references, and absorbing the world in Berlin and living out the story. We spent a lot of time traveling around together, feeling out each environment, absorbing the light, observing the people, and trying to get a feel for the characters. We were very focused on figuring out who Andi was and where he would have grown up, and how it would feel to be Clare with wide eyes looking at this new world, how she would see things, and how she could potentially be vulnerable in this situation.

Q: What were the biggest challenges of the shoot?

Like a lot of Australian films, the biggest challenge on BERLIN SYNDROME was time. Trying to get it all shot in the time that was available to us. It inevitably creates this environment where you have to get things done very, very quickly and be quite immediate in trusting your instincts and just going for it. It's always a bit of a rollercoaster ride trying to get through it in a day, and incredibly stressful wondering whether you've made the right decision. It's a constant grind on you just trying to make sure you're doing the very best you can for the film, the director, the actors, and the whole team.

Q: What was your favorite scene or filming location during the shoot?

Usually shooting on location is my favorite thing to do, being out in the real world, in real locations. The feeling you get from this is very hard to emulate in a studio. Particularly, the excitement you get out of reacting to natural light and the real things that happen that force your hand in a way. On this film, we got to film in some amazing locations in Berlin, but shooting in the studio in Melbourne was especially enjoyable. Largely because of the scheduling restraints, we were quite time poor, so we had to be able to work very quickly, and often on a shoot moving around from one location to the next soaks up a lot of time that you could be using to experiment. So once we got back to Australia, where we shot all the interiors of Andi's apartment, we found that we had a bit more time to play. I found it to be a great challenge having to emulate the light from Europe from Summer through to Autumn and Winter and it was lots of fun.


Q: What was your favorite scene of the film?

Favorites would be the Gymnastics scene, the IKEA chair assemble scene and the scene on the couch with Andi cutting Clare's fingernails. All of the action scenes were fun to cut, door slamming etc as were the sex scenes and the post-coital chat scene.

One sequence that really jumped out at me in the script as being transcending in style and which really lifted off the page was the chat with the father in the kitchen about Andi's new girlfriend - and then showing the reality of that situation. That was changed around a bit during the edit and at one point wasn't showing Clare while they spoke, but we went back to it and I think it's strong and affecting; it was fun to cut.


Q: Did you have a favorite scene or favorite costume?

I think that Andi's father Erich incorporated a lot of history and contributed to the character development of Andi, so it was a joy finding elements in the costume for this character that really helped us discover Erich. For example, Erich's leather jacket in the lecture theatre - it was a subtle element but says a lot.


Q: What is this story about for you?

It's an exploration into the dynamic between two individuals. It delves into themes of love, lust, control, sexuality, loneliness, personal suffering, and growth.

Q: What was it about this story that you were drawn to?

I loved the character of Clare and getting to explore her imperfections, her darkness and then her ultimate discovery of self. I hadn't played such an introverted and internal character before so it was a tremendous challenge for me. Above all, Cate Shortland was the biggest drawcard. I've been a long-time fan of hers ever since I saw Somersault, I've been dying to work with her for years.

Q: How did you prepare for the role of Clare?

I prepped mostly with Cate and Max in the rehearsal room. We really took apart the scenes and injected our own interpretations and discoveries of these characters and rewrote the scenes together. We found some really daring and intense parts of these characters and once we felt as though we had journeyed through all facets of them we knew we were ready to get to work and play.

Q: How was it working with Cate Shortland?

She has been my favorite director to work with thus far. She really knows how to highlight authenticity, it's what she is interested in and celebrates. I loved how excited she would be by actions that we would take which would generally be subconscious, like the picking of our nails, the tucking of our hair, how we moved our feet etc. she wanted to capture these moments as important character pieces. I've never worked with a director who still seems to see the world through the lens of someone discovering it for the first time.

Q: What was it like working with co-star Max Riemelt?

Max was incredible to work with. We had to really trust each other and we had to become really enmeshed during this process. I feel he created a safe space for me to explore all sides of Clare, he was such a generous actor and he was truly chilling and complex in his portrayal of Andi.

Q: What was your favorite scene to shoot?

My favorite scene to shoot was the Christmas scene. I play the accordion, we discuss our relationship; as Clare tries desperately to find some humanity and connection with Andi. The connection is her salvation so it's a really delicate scene, she can't push too hard but she also needs to be bolder than before as she feels her time is limited. I really enjoyed playing around with it.

Q: Which scene was the biggest challenge for you and why?

The biggest challenge was probably finding the right balance of emotion, yet control during the scene when Andi comes home once I've realized he has decided to keep me captive. I had to ensure that all the right emotional beats were being hit yet Clare still has the hope of escaping and is in survival mode so I had to weave that in there too.

Berlin Syndrome Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Cate Shortland

Writing Credits

Shaun Grant (Screenplay)

Melanie Joosten (Novel)

Cate Shortland (Additional material)


Teresa Palmer

Max Riemelt

Matthias Habich

Emma Bading

Elmira Bahrami

Christoph Franken

Music by

Bryony Marks

Cinematography by

Germain McMickking

Genres: Drama, Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Country: Australia

Berlin Syndrome Official Trailer

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