Based on the 1995 Japanese Anime classic, Ghost in the Shell (✩✩✩) stars Scarlett Johansson as the cyber-enhanced being Major, a manufactured soldier who tackles the world’s most dangerous criminals. A human was saved from a terrible accident, with the only part remaining being the brain trapped in a synthetic body being controlled by those who manufactured her.
The film is reminiscent of the bleak futuristic cityscape in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Like Blade Runner’s replicants, androids that almost perfectly mimic human beings, Major begins to notice glitches. When she has to eliminate a rogue cyber-enhanced being known as the Puppet Master (Michael Pitt), she discovers that she has been lied to and her life was not saved but stolen.
Directed by Rupert Sanders, this non-stop action thriller does pause every now and then to throw in some philosophy on what it is to be human. Do our memories define us or are we indeed trapped by them?
Australian director Cate Shortland (Snowtown) takes her audience to the graffiti-covered capital of Germany where a young Australian woman is searching for experiences. Backpacker Clare (Teresa Palmer) takes risks, as we see when she parties with fellow backpackers on her first night. After an intense one night stand with a German local, Clare finds herself locked in his apartment.
Adapted from the book of the same name, Berlin Syndrome (✩✩✩✩) is shot in the bleak backstreets and abandoned buildings of forgotten parts of Berlin. It is an ideal location for Andi (Max Riemelt) who teaches high school English and has a liking for foreign girls. As Clare discovers, she is not the first tourist this charismatic psychopath has held captive. The battle between captor and captive is mesmerising and progressively more violent as Clare becomes more desperate to escape.
This cautionary tale for young travellers is particularly well done and some of the scenes will burn into your memory. The title adds extra tension to the edge-of-your-seat drama as it evokes the Stockholm Syndrome where the captive forms a loving connection with her captor. Don’t forget to breathe as you pray for Clare to escape.
The Bar (✩✩✩✩) screens at Cinema Paradiso as part of the Spanish Film Festival which runs 27 April to 17 May. Directed by Alex de la Iglesia, the opening scene zooms in on several people who are making their way to a run-down Madrid bar. It is an eclectic mix with the matriarch owner and her timid assistant; a couple of middle-aged men; young man glued to technology; a neurotic older woman; a homeless man and on out-of-place attractive young lady.
When a man leaving the bar is shot dead and left on the sidewalk, the street vacates. Another man leaves the bar to go to his aid but is killed as well. The bodies mysteriously disappear while everyone in the bar is arguing, and they realise there is another man in the toilet who is obviously in distress. There is nothing on the news and after the captives debate conspiracy theories, they turn on each other.
This Spanish horror film has layers of satire about the construction dissemination of what we call news. It also shows a mirror to a society which lives under the continual threat of terrorism. But most of all it is an entertaining romp, albeit through the sewers of Madrid.