Written and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, co-written by Robert Buchschwenter and Hanno Pinter, when an ex-prisoner of the Great War returns home and finds his comrades brutally murdered, he decides to bring the serial-killer to justice. Starring: Murathan Muslu, Liv Lisa Fries, Marc Limpach, Max von der Groeben, Aaron Friesz, Stipe Erceg and Matthias Schweighöfer.

Hinterland opens on a strong, simple atmospheric shot with sharp colour and superb definition. As it then introduces its slightly warped world, there are huge vibes of Terry Gilliam, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro and Frank Miller. The style doubles down on the darkness of its story, it may slightly take away from its sincerity but it has the personality to make up for it. It has a great blend of violence, mystery and crime, wrapped up in the horror of war which creates a balance of entertaining and gripping. The pacing and investigation elements hark back to The Alienist.

The story reveals itself well, it’s neither overly complex nor predictable, it strikes somewhere in the middle. It has a few unexpected turns along the way and flows smoothly, not too slow but does take its time. The creation of Peter Berg (Muslu) hits familiar notes of trauma, classic masculine traits, leadership and oppression. However fighting against that overt masculinity is the genuine emotion it holds, with its strange style and darkness, it’s pleasantly surprising to find a number of moving moments throughout. Particularly in Berg’s relationship with Dr. Theresa Körner (Fries), which has such a refreshing focus on their mutual respect over their romantic connection.

Murathan Muslu does a fantastic job of befitting both the strong, dominant characteristics and the vulnerability resulting from Berg’s trauma. He leads the film well, he’s intelligent, resilient and compassionate, with a sincere relatability which makes him easy to watch. There’s then an interesting mix of a supporting ensemble, Liv Lisa Fries is a great intellectual and emotional partner as Körner. Army of the Dead fans will enjoy a memorable cameo from Matthias Schweighöfer and the entire cast is strong, there’s no weak link.

Hinterland is both visually and thematically compelling. It takes on a warped version of reality which is dark, atmospheric and slightly twisted to appropriately match the barbarity of the war Berg’s returning from. The cast is a strong ensemble, lead by a stoic yet empathetic performance from Murathan Muslu. Its choice of aesthetic may feel strange at first but reveals itself to be perfectly matched to the altered version of reality Berg returns to.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ ½ | 7/10

Reviewed as part of London Film Festival 2021

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