Tina (Carolyn Genzkow) had planned on spending her summer holidays with her friends, partying and enjoying herself. But after a rave at the local swimming pool, she starts seeing this creature that seems to follow her home, raiding her fridge and disappearing whenever somebody else is there. Tina’s parents are understandably worried, as Tina’s mental health seems to start to spiral more and more out of control.
I missed this film at last year’s Viennale and was very happy when it got a small release after all here. And I’m even happier after having seen it: Der Nachtmahr is a weird and beautiful film. Touching, well-acted and smart it takes you on quite a journey.
Der Nachtmahr defies easy categorization. It starts out as a horror movie, then turns into a study of Tina’s psychology by way of E.T. (to which it lovingly and subtly pays homage throughout the film). Plus, the script itself points in many directions and doesn’t tell one clear and linear plot. As such it can be read and interpreted in different ways, keeping it interesting for potential re-watches. It mostly depends on if you read the creature as a symbol for something, and if so, for what.
It’s a film with an intense atmosphere. When Tina goes to her raves, the lighting and sound become almost hypnotic. I’m not a raver myself, but I can imagine that it feels at least a little like this to be at a rave. (Not surprisingly, the film starts with a warning about flashing lights and a recommendation to have the sound turned up.) Despite those rave scenes and the partly very dramatic events, it feels like a quiet film, though, that calmly looks at its subject(s).
At the heart of the film, though, are the creature – The Nightmare – and Tina, fulminantly acted by Carolyn Grenzkow. The creature’s design, their relationship with each other and the slow way it unfolds, coupled with Tina’s psychological issues – it’s a highly emotional story, flawlessly captured and evoking and always with a huge sensitivity for its protagonist and eye for striking visuals.
Der Nachtmahr is a small piece of cinematic magic that had me thinking about it for days afterwards. I’m looking forward to seeing it again and seeing if and how my perceptions of it change and what readings I can glean from it.