The Year I Lost My Mind ****
Starring: Alexander Tsypilev, Julien Lickert, Patrick G. Boll, Astrid Kohrs
Director: Tor Iben
Movies are obsessed with obsession. From Fatal Attraction to Cruising, movies have attempted to peel back the layers of obsession, showing the way it can make some behave, transforming them from human beings into someone much more sinister. The object of their affection is normally weaker, purer and oblivious to the dark thoughts of the anonymous stranger whose life revolves around them; but this is not the case in new German movie The Year I Lost My Mind.
Tom (Tsypilev) is a young tearaway. Obsessed with anonymity, he cruises the park for nameless hook-ups and enjoys the reaction he gets when he walks into a shop wearing a mask. He burgles people’s homes too and on one such trip, he finds himself in the bedroom of Lars (Lickert), a very attractive university lecturer who sleeps through the intrusion in his home. Tom returns night after night to watch him sleep and follows him during the day, with his intrusions becoming more and more daring as he stalks the older man. But when Lars begins to realise what is happening, he has absolutely no intention of just being a victim.
This is a psycho-sexual thriller. The characters’ motivations are sexual and the film is peppered with sex scenes, which for Tom are linked inexorably with violence. Lars lectures about Queer Studies, so throughout we hear his and his students’ anthropological theories about sexual expression, which talk of normalising experiences, when the world we are seeing away from his lecture theatre is far from this. The juxtaposition of fetishised obsession against distanced academia creates layers of increasingly growing tension, using Tom’s predatory fixation as the springboard for a veiled cat and mouse thriller, with a victim who seems above the traps of sex, but is actually anything but.
Tom is a dark character with even darker motivations. We see snippets of his family life, with his sister and mother concerned by the way he has withdrawn from society. He has weapons, hides in his own closet and has an increasing array of masks, which he loves to hide behind. The mask is what makes him bold; without it, he is a silent, intense but shy, but the moment he puts on a mask he is empowered to become a silent and dangerous prowler. Lars meanwhile is not your typical victim; he is strong, confident and, at times, animalistic. When the truth is eventually revealed, the scenes that follow are like duelling wild animals. Lars might be highly educated, but he’s not above showing his teeth and using them.
This is a film that fetishises masculinity, analyses it and then frames it as something to be worshipped and desired. By positioning it with the victim not really a victim at all, Tom’s obsession feels less exploitative and instead like a really extreme romance… that is if you can call a clash between a crocodile and a great white shark romantic. Despite being very sparse on dialogue, this is a film that revels in the silence as the two square up to each other. This is a very effective movie that may offend the faint-hearted, but taps into our darker desires.