2008 // Germany // Christian Petzold // November 18, 2009 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema)
Christian Petzold's lean, sordid little thriller positions itself as a successor to the works of Hitchcock and Wilder, but its most direct ancestor is The Postman Always Rings Twice, to the point that Jerichow might be regarded a near-remake. Here the Frank Chambers part is a penniless Afghan war veteran, Thomas, played with a distinctly Germanic heat by the chiseled Benno Fürmann (also appearing in North Face at this year's Festival). Recruited into the employ of snack bar entrepreneur Ali (Hilmi Sözer) through the sort of happenstance that seems endemic to noir, Thomas inevitably hooks up with the boss' wife, Laura (Nina Hoss), a ragged blond who seems like more trouble than she's worth. Petzold's script is admirably sparing and suitably tense, especially given that the bulk of story's action occurs in sun-kissed daylight. The film is resolutely focused on its core conflict, barely permitting any characters other than its three principals to intrude. Its main sin is that it's a film in search of a purpose. At bottom, Jerichow is a skillful retread of territory that's already been extensively explored, and Petzold doesn't bring anything fresh other than some unconventional (but not unexpected) twists in the third act.