Starring: Bozidar Kocevski, Heiner Bomhard, Katy Karrenbauer
Director: Rosa van Praunheim
The title Darkroom implies two things. It implies this new German thriller is going to be 1. dark and 2. sexy. Unfortunately, this adaptation of a true story is neither.
Lars (Kocevski) is a nurse from a small German town. Having moved to Berlin with his boyfriend Roland (Bomhard) and their friends for a more exciting life, the pair settle into their new apartment seeming like the picture of domesticity. But as Roland goes out and has sex with other people, Lars takes his exploits even further when a sexual encounter introduces him to the drug GHB. When he learns how easy it is to kill someone with just a few drops, he realises how simple it would be for him to kill someone without being detected. And though he begins with poisoning his friends, he soon progresses to murdering strangers he meets in secluded spaces.
You’d be forgiven for thinking this does indeed feel like a somewhat dark movie, but its composition has left it without atmosphere or threat. It’s told through flashback from his mental hospital, but with Lars’ sassy eyerolling from his straight-jacket, these scenes come off far more comedic than they were intended. It’s really not that difficult to make a person strapped to a bed appear menacing, but we actually end up accidentally quite liking him. And though the scenes of the couple’s normalcy clearly exist to illustrate that psychopaths can function as normal human beings, there’s no tension here either, meaning that for a film divided into narrative thirds, two of them are about as ominous as waiting for a stationery order.
There is also only one scene set in a darkroom. The sequence in which Lars murders someone there without detection is probably one of the film’s strongest sequences, but the music is light in tone and there isn’t much of a climax to it. Essentially, a film about a serial killer who preys on people who deliberately put themselves in situations where they’re vulnerable should really have directed itself., but with Darkroom you’ve ended up with a movie that has about as much tension as a kids’ party in a soft play area.