Film Review – System Crasher (2019)

It is almost as if they are doing this on purpose. With Vivarium, the brilliant new sci-fi thinker from director Lorcan Finnegan, also released this week there’s been something of a subconscious thought process to highlight our current plights of being at home. The aforementioned thriller takes on a chilling journey into suburbia and modern parenting in a time where our own four walls are our best friends whilst System Crasher, albeit very different, shines a light on

Young actress Helena Zengel plays Benni, a troublesome, loud, violent and, yes, brattish nine-year-old who tries the patience of everyone she meets in her day to day life. That isn’t to say she is incapable of love and affection nor indeed being obedient but she is becoming smarter as the processes continue and knows how to get her way if she desires it. She has been put into special care by her mother – who has two other young children and a boyfriend who is public enemy No.1 – but for many months, Benni has been in and out of foster care and the child protection services and no matter how hard they try, there seems no end in sight for any of them.

Let it be known right off the bat that Nora Fingscheidt’s thoughtful, compelling film is a tough watch – a very tough one – but that doesn’t mean it is difficult, far from it, as System Crasher exudes a subtle warmth and empathy that make it essential viewing. Shot almost like it’s a deleted scene from The Bourne Ultimatum, this is as dizzying and frustratingly-framed as that kinetic action franchise that while taking a little while to acclimatise your brain too, is perfect for this story. We are put right down to Benni’s level as she shouts, screams, runs and destroys everything in her path, lending the film a stark reality that only amplifies both the hurt and rage coursing through her young veins and the searing frustrations of those trying to find answers for her.

But even in spite of all of the brilliance of Fingscheidt’s direction, Yunus Roy Imer’s piercing cinematography and John Gurtler’s superb score, a film such as this lives and dies on its lead child actor and Zengel is a true force of nature. Mesmeric from moment one, there is perhaps even more weight on her shoulders than would normally be expected given the complexity of the role but you’d never know it. Beautifully realising Benni’s angst, anger, and joyfulness that is slowly being suffocated from her. She is simply magnificent throughout, as is this sharp, important film.

★★★★1/2


Drama | Germany, 2019 | 15 | 27th March 2020 (UK) | VOD | Rent Here | 606 Distribution | Dir.Nora Fingscheidt | Helena Zengel, Albrecht Schuch, Gabriela Maria Schmeide