Saturday, May 07, 2022

Human Factors, from Germany

The home invasion ended quickly, but the family dysfunction lingers on and on. Viewers get to see it all from multiple perspectives in Ronny Trocker’s Human Factors, which is now playing in Brooklyn.

Mark and Nina are an unhappy-on-the-inside German couple who run a boutique advertising agency together. They also have a teen daughter, Emma and Max, an introverted moppet with a pet rat named Zorro (who is easily the most likable character in the film). For a brief getaway, they popped over to their Belgian summer house, but while dad was off at the grocery, mom has a brief run-in with masked intruders, who were hidden upstairs—or did she? Or was he?

No real harm was done, except Zorro managed to make a break for the woods during the confusion. Nevertheless, Nina is shaken. The next day, everyone tries to act like everything is all better, but Max is worried about Zorro and Mark is even more annoyed by Nina’s brother Florian, when he decides to make a reassuring visit.

In the next few days, a lot of family angst and resentment will come out. It also spills over into the office when Mark admits he accepted a Euroskeptic political party as a client without consulting Nina. Just what happened in Belgium? Several flashbacks from other perspectives will help illuminate the truth.

The trouble is the crime itself is basically trespassing. The stakes are entirely familial and emotional, rather than criminal. Yet, it is structured like a
Rashomon-like thriller, sort of like a family drama directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, but it is nowhere near that interesting. Trocker tries so hard to keep the audience at arm’s length, it ends up straining the entire film.

The principal cast is average and unassuming-looking to a fault. They are also Teutonically German, in their frosty coldness. Frankly, it is difficult to picture anyone from the film in your mind’s eye an hour after watching it.

Admittedly, Trocker creates a vibe of uneasy foreboding that slowly intensifies over time. It just never blossoms into suspense, because it is so hard to care about the characters. This is the work of a very deliberate and measured craftsman, but it is too insular and full of itself. Not recommended,
Human Factors is now playing at Film Noir Cinema.