Saturday, September 14, 2013

Netflix streaming--SNOWMAN'S LAND is Tomasz Thomson's black comedy in a white landscape

As dry as the ice that sticks to your fingers and won't let go (and just as funny in its bleak sort of way), SNOWMAN'S LAND is one of those crime comedies in which the laughs catch in your throat because they're so dark. Yet the movie is very amusing in its pitch black way. That it mostly takes place amidst a ravishing white ground upon which the snow makes all look pristine only adds to its bizarre allure. Beginning with a "hit"--in which the wrong man is killed, due the assassin's having a slightly off day--the movie grows icier from there.

Just past the outset, our "hero" Walter (Jürgen Rißmann, above) is told, after his blunder, to take a winter vacation that will double as help for an out-of-town crime boss named Berger.

As he approaches Berger's "headquarters," Walter runs into an old acquaintance, Micky (Tomas Wodianka, above) -- also a hit man, no surprise -- and the two head off to learn what their assignment is to be.

Once they arrive, Berger is nowhere to be found, only his girlfriend Sibylle (Eva-Katrin Hermann, above), who treats the pair like shit and then leaves for a party. What transpires from here grows crazier and darker but never loses touch with the reality the movie so nicely creates. By the time Berger (Reiner Schöne, below) finally shows up, anything is now possible, and that's pretty much what occurs.

Written and directed by Tomasz Thomson (shown at right: This is only his second film) the movie is surprisingly assured both visually and in terms of dialog and pacing. Herr Thomson keeps the surprise, suspense and smiles flowing, and he does this all within the confines of a nearly single-location setting and a mere quintet of actors (the fifth wheel, Berger's right-hand man, is played quite well by Waléra Kanischtscheff, below, right).

The director seems to perfectly understand the power of "quiet" in a crime movie, as opposed to all those explosions and chases that Hollywood favors in film after tiresome film. He also knows how to use narration judiciously and cleverly to keep that smile on our often bewildered (but never bored) faces.

As a microcosm of how we live these days, Snowman's Land -- in German with English subtitles -- might seem a tad far-fetched. But think about it a moment or two and its paranoia can creepily sink in. The movie is available now via Netflix streaming and probably elsewhere, too.

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