Little to no dialogue, a location that’s more than haunting, a bloodcurdling score, and a visual style that I don’t remember seeing before. Michael Bartlett’s The Berlin Bride is an unforgettable cinema experience. A film so within its rules, it could be seen as experimental. But don’t let that change your mind.
It tells a story. But its narrative approach isn’t common or even friendly. It’s a psychological horror film about the powers of the human mind amidst a slow breakdown where sanity doesn’t exist. The Berlin Bride starts its story after it’s simply too late. However, it’s OK. Bartlett guarantees that in this mini-universe everything makes sense.
The story is told from the perspectives of two men living in 80s Berlin. One is in charge of a store, while the other picks up trash from parks. The two of them come upon different parts of a female mannequin and take them home. Each of them begins a different kind of “relationship” with their respective parts.
Are you following me? If you aren’t, it isn’t necessary. Bartlett doesn’t follow the regular narrative structure. After a few repetitive scenes, we understand where the film heads to as both men become enamored with their plastic counterpart. Each of them are alive in their own way and they each represent a manifestation of their emotional repression and expression. Themes of sexual angst and gender dysphoria are subtly recognizable in the third act where everything is supposed to be solved.
Nevertheless, the writer/director doesn’t make things easy for you. You’re supposed to participate in the experience where the trashman and the store owner meet and their clash takes place according to a supernatural manifestation of an inanimate object. There is a winner and a loser in this encounter, but again it isn’t really relevant as the power of the story is beyond dramatic justice.
From a technical perspective, The Berlin Bride is a fine achievement. The film looks great, with cinematography and production design being indirect characters in the storyline. Seldom does an European cultural setting seem so restrictive, claustrophobic and nightmarish. Bartlett makes sure you find yourself in an impossible world. The Berlin Bride is a fantasy film, but it’s so disturbing, you won’t have the greatest memories after watching it. And you won’t see mannequins the same way, especially lifeless eyes that seem to be about to move and flicker.
Again, this isn’t the average indie horror film that follows the rules to comply with the minimal standard that the genre implies. It’s weird, gruesome, romantic, and psychologically invasive. Every single one of you will get something different out of it and that’s the beauty of every horror iteration out there. Regardless of your opinion and what you comment about The Berlin Bride, it’s undeniable that Bartlett has made one damn interesting horror film. For everyone to enjoy? I still can’t say. Perhaps, I’ll answer that after my next nightmare.
Leave a Reply