I've been a fan of director Alexander Bakshaev for years now, and it’s always a pleasure when a new production of his falls into my hands! Being one of the few truly emotionally mature filmmakers from Russia since Andrei Tarkovsky, Bakshaev always delivers extreme strong dramas with a surreal and/or supernatural touches. The Devil of Kreuzberg might be his best movie so far, and deals with all these ingredients.
Linda (Sandra Bourdonnec) and Jakob (Ludwig Reuter) is in love, they’re in love like few other human beings. But Jakob have begun to get terrible nightmares, where Linda appears. This bothers him more and more until one day when he asks his friend Kurt (Suleyman Yuceer - a deadringer for Stephen Rea by the way) if he can kill her for him. Kurt, an amateur killer himself, takes on the mission, but gets slowly sucked into this strange, strange story of cursed love.
Clocking in on approximate 50 minutes, this a perfect, poetic little drama with some heavy influences of Jean Rollin, Jess Franco and random European artiness. Capturing the streets and grey look of Germany, it’s a familiar kind of environments for fans of euro art movies. Don’t expect pure horror, it’s pretty far from it. No, very far from it. But the fascination here - like in most Franco films of a certain class - relies on human relationships.
There’s an excellent drama-threesome going on here, between Bourdonnec, Reuter and Yuceer, which is multilayered, crisp and with a high EQ. I’m especially happy with the intimate friendship Jakob and Kurt shows, which is so rare in a world where men should behave a certain way. They love each other in a platonic way. They hold each others arms when out walking, dancing together - in my favorite scene in the movie, fucking genius I tell ya, and I love Jakob’s angora sweater in that scene. A nod to Ed Wood? The performances from the two guys are subtle and still intensive - “they’re there”, compared to many big stars nowadays.
Sandra Bourdonnec looks like she stepped right out of a Jean Rollin film, at least looking at her performance and haunted look. She’s an updated vampire, a succubus but still normal woman. It could easily have been something flatter in the hands of the wrong actress, but Bourdonnec is excellent. Around her and the rest of the cast is a wonderful collection of locations, from seedy Reeperbahn to gorgeous Argento-esque building exteriors.
The devil of Kreuzberg is a beautifully crafted story, shot with a unique sense of intimacy. You’re there with the characters. The absurdities of the story, like the disco dancing, adds a perfect balance to a mix of Bakshaev’s always fantastic combination of exploitation and arthouse.