Main cast: Nora Huetz (Lea), Tobias Licht (Ryan), and Arndt Schwering-Sohnrey (Daniel)
Director: Igor Zaritzky
I originally wanted to watch a few bigger titles that are just recently released on Netflix, but I became distracted by the not-so-new German flick Mephisto-Effekt. From what I understand, the Mephisto effect refers to the prominent and often unintentionally comical arching of one’s eyebrows, often due to Botox injection in the forehead and around the eyes. I have no idea whether that definition applies here; the term probably means something else in German. However, while I honestly don’t go for such injections – due to the cost, mind you, not because I’m still gorgeous and what not – I probably have a similar Mephisto effect on my face by the time the credits roll.
Yes, the only reason I watched to the one is just to see whether this movie remains as terrible in the end as it was in the beginning.
It starts out simply. Lea’s boyfriend is away at a different university, so she, being lonely and what not, is seduced by the smooth charms of Ryan, a handsome man who seems to share her passion for books and the arts. What could have been a simple one night stand turns into a nightmare when a stranger, who calls himself Daniel, barges into her place with photos of her in hot action with Ryan. He accuses her of being a whore and a slut, and demands that she answers his many, many questions before he hands over the incriminating stuff to her. He eventually drags a tied-up, beaten-up Ryan to her place, pointing out that the man is a liar who manipulates women into bed, films their sexy antics, and thinks of his conquests as no better than sluts who should be dragged by their partners for succumbing to his smooth talking ways.
It soon becomes apparent that this movie is very likely an excuse for director-screenwriter Igor Zaritzky to work out his own issues about sex and dating, as Daniel seems to represent the barely veiled tenets of men going their own way or MGTOW, while Ryan very clearly embodies the principles of the pickup artist or PUA. Poor Lea is meant to be the placeholder of the audience, but the script doesn’t understand nuances. Team PUA is demonized to such a degree that Ryan comes off like a Scooby-Doo villain in his misogyny and all-out hatefulness. However, Daniel isn’t a winner by any means, as he often behaves like a mix of a Nice Guy and a man to whom a woman is either all-out Madonna or all-out whore, no in-between. Yet, I’m clearly expected to be on his team when all I can think of is that Lea may as well just walk out and leave these two men to kill one another.
The main problem with Mephisto-Effekt is that it is a very talky movie, but the conversations come off as so staged and even stilted that these characters come off as reading aloud scripted rants rather than expressing themselves spontaneously and explosively. Tobias Licht’s character, especially, displays zero believable human emotion for someone who is being held against his will by what looks like a mad man, and I wonder whether Mr Licht is hired for his looks rather than his acting ability. He is good-looking, of course, but his displayed range in his movie makes him resemble a mannequin rather than a human being. I have no idea how Ryan is supposed to be a very successful PUA when he emotes like a tree stump. The other two cast members certainly can emote far more than Mr Licht, but it’s hard for a movie to work when the balance is off due to one of them being very clearly a weak link.
Worse, much of the shout-heavy nature of the “conversations” in this movie is repetitive in nature. Daniel, especially, keeps ranting about the same old things over and over, and by the time this movie lumbers clumsily past its midway point, I am already bored out of my mind. It’s probably a good thing, in a way, that Mr Licht is cast, as looking at his face is a pleasant distraction from all the dreary everything else about this movie.
Another problem here is that I can easily predict Daniel’s motives, so by the time the revelation dawns, I am more than ready to run for the exit, so to speak. All that boring screaming and shouting and eye-rolling last minute violence just to dump on PUA. They could have just castrated him from the get go and spare me the trouble of sitting through this wretched little bore.
BUY THIS MOVIE Amazon UK