REVIEW: Nothing Bad Can Happen

23 06 2014

Nothing Bad Can Happen posterCannes Film Festival – Un Certain Regard, 2013

I was on a bit of a moviewatching bender that day I saw “Nothing Bad Can Happen” at the Cannes Film Festival.  (It’s still a bit of an ignominious personal record – I saw four movies in that day alone.)  I began the day with a 9:00 AM screening James Gray’s sublime “The Immigrant” and then quickly hit a mid-morning Director’s Fortnight showing of the instantly forgettable French film “Henri.”

Looking for something else to do with my day, I began to peruse the trades looking for yet another film to see.  As I perused Un Certain Regard, the section of the official competition for edgier and less renowned talent, I noticed a plot description that included the phrase “test of faith.”  Intrigued by that line alone, I went and tried my luck for the line at a repeat projection of “Nothing Bad Can Happen.”

Having very few ideas of what to expect save that brief synopsis, I entered the film rather naively and exited in a form of cinematic shellshock.  In her debut feature, director Katrin Gebbe got deeply underneath my skin and really disturbed me with her unflinching portrayal of the horrifying violence humans are capable of committing.  Her film lingers in my imagination, unsettling me profoundly still with just the thought of it.

Nothing Bad Cannes Happen

“Nothing Bad Can Happen” recalls the styles of two distinctly different filmmakers.  Gebbe’s impressionistic camerawork resembles the fleeting ephemera perfected by Terrence Malick in “The Tree of Life,” yet its unwillingness to turn away from graphic atrocity reminded me of Michael Haneke’s films.  By melding these influences, Gebbe crafts a work that feels bold and singular, further amplifying the shock of watching the terror unfolding before our eyes.

She doesn’t exactly mold her story to the traditional “test of faith” arc, either.  The protagonist, Tore, accepts a random act of kindness from a stranger when his van breaks down.  Little does he know that this man, Benno, will soon put him through a series of increasingly brutal tortures.  The events of “Nothing Bad Can Happen” don’t seem to make Tore, a zealous member of a nebulously explained evangelistic Christian group, question his beliefs in a higher power.  They just force him to reckon with a tough realization regarding mankind’s capacity for depravity.

And it’s not just Tore who gets put through the ringer by Gebbe; it’s also us, the observers.  We are not spared his pain, and given the abhorrent acts that are committed, we certainly should not be.  And yet even though “Nothing Bad Can Happen” discomforted me severely, it also made me fervently excited.  Katrin Gebbe’s film pulsates with such commanding energy that I simply cannot wait to see what this emerging talent has in store for us in the years ahead.  B+3stars

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