TL;DR – It starts really strong with moments of real tension, but it is let down by a muddled ending.
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Today we get to look at a film that is almost the reverse of the norm. It is not at all uncommon for there to be English adaptions of foreign language films as there is a long history of people assuming that subtitles are a real barrier for commercial success. Well, today we get to see a film that has made the reverse trip with Kidnapping Stella being the German adaptation of the English film The Disappearance of Alice Creed. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how well a film does going the other way across the channel. Though I must say that at times this is a deeply confronting film, and you should probably know that before jumping in.
So to set the scene, we open in on two gentlemen Tom (Max von der Groeben) and Vic (Clemens Schick) as they go about their day running errands and picking up supplies. They renovate a room, get a van ready, and put in a new bed. All really normal, but for the fact that they block out all of the windows, and that they have masks. Because what they are doing is not renovating, they are prepping the room for something, and that something is Stella (Jella Haase) who they kidnap off the street to ransom back to her parents.
I don’t think everything in this film worked, I do have to say that the acting
was one of the things that really stood out for me. There are only three actors
in this movie, so they have to sell everything, the fear, the indecision, the dedication,
the part where it all goes wrong. This is because there is nowhere else to
hide, you only have three people to latch on to, to root for, or to want to see
fail. With this in mind, I have to give full credit to Max von der Groeben, Clemens
Schick, and Jella Haase for selling the heck out of their roles. You have Vic
who is the controlling force behind everything, the brains, and the commitment,
then Tom the younger almost impressionable youth that has fallen into Vic’s
orbit, and then, of course, Stella who is terrified and traumatised. You feel every
one of their personalities and how they intersect which is so important before
things start to unravel.
The story is also really pared down to the bare essentials, which really works to move the plot along, but also to allow moments to breathe. This can be moments like establishing the power dynamic between the two men and how they relate to each other. It can also be moments where you have a metaphorical landmine sitting there waiting for someone to stand on it and some people know it is there and others don’t. This gives each of those moments the tension they need to really shine. All of this is well filmed and staged to make every moment that much more horrific or tense.
for me, there was one thing that didn’t work and that was the ending and of
course to talk about the ending we need to engage [SPOILERS]. As the story progresses, the careful plan of Vic and Tom
starts to unravel as we learn that Tom and Stella know each other. This was a
great reveal as it made it three people with different alliances and
motivations working together. However, as they were building to the end it felt
like it was missing something and that may have been what was in the original film.
In the original film, Vic and Tom were in a sexual relationship from their time
in prison which created a whole new dimension to their relationship. You can
still set the groundwork from that being laid in this film, but it now just
plays out as just a dominant personality. Because of that the film starts
running out of steam and you start to see some of the cracks appear, like Tom
being shot in the shoulder but then bleeding out of his stomach (it is a
through and through but you have to watch it over again to work out what is
happening) or that let’s face it, it is beyond belief that Tom could walk kilometres
with a gut shot and still make it back in time to stop Vic. All of this is a
bit of a disappointment because everything was going so well before that.
In the end, do we recommend Kidnapping Stella? Well, if you are interested in films that play on building tension or that dabble in suspense, then I feel there is still enough here that you will find it interesting. Also, it might be worth it for the performances alone. However, other than that, I am not so sure.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow
Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV,
he’ll be talking about International Relations,
or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Kidnapping Stella
Directed by – Thomas Seven
Screenplay by – Thomas Seven
Based on – The Disappearance of Alice Creed by J Blakeson
Music by – Michael Comb
Cinematography by – Sten Mende
Edited by – Robert Rzesacz
Production/Distribution Companies – Henning Ferber Produktion & Netflix
Starring – Max von der Groeben, Clemens Schick & Jella Haase
Rating – Australia: M;