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STUDIO: Music Box Films
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
• Making of Feature
• Theatrical Trailer
Two lowly hitmen shack up in a remote mansion in the Carpathian Mountains in this droll crime comedy.
Written and directed by Tomasz Thomson, starring Jurgen Ribmann, Thomas Wodianka, and Reiner Schone.
Hired gun Walter has botched his latest assignment and killed the wrong man, so his boss orders him to take a vacation. He takes another job instead, this time up in the remote northern mountains where an elusive kingpin named Berger needs some protection. On his way there, he comes across another hood named Micky, who is also been hired by Berger. The two unknowingly stumble into a bizarre realm of hallucinogenic drugs, isolation, and martial apathy.
There’s something entertaining about watching people with interesting jobs do really uninteresting things. For example, have you ever watched a correctional officer eat ice cream? It’s hypnotizing, I imagine. In the hands of a proper screenwriter, this type of material is gold that can lead to genius. Take Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges for instance. Two weathered hitmen loafing around a hotel, talking faith and redemption. Doesn’t sound very entertaining, but McDonagh manages to draw forth a wealth of character development and memorable dialogue.
German filmmaker Tomasz Thomson’s Snowman’s Land shares many plot elements with In Bruges, but fails to be half as entertaining. Early on the film reveals that it’s not your typical, slick crime flick. There’s no MTV-editing or sharp-as-fuck suits. Our main protagonist is Walter, an oafish man with greasy unkempt hair nearly draped down to his slumped shoulders. The film begins with him on a job, gunning down the wrong man in a public bathroom. Peeved over the attention Walter’s mistake has brought the organization, his boss tells him to take a vacation.
He winds up taking another job that’s sort of like a vacation. It’s up in the Carpathian Mountains, “the most isolated place in Europe.” There he’s to watch over the mansion of an elusive kingpin named Berger and chase away any local vandals and lowlifes. Also on the job is Micky. He’s much more enthusiastic about being a hit man. You can tell because we first see him while he’s practicing his quick draws and pistol-spins along the snowy road to Berger’s.
They arrive at Berger’s mansion (which resembles an old hospital or asylum) to be greeted by his wife Sybille. Berger’s gone boar hunting and Sybille leaves that night to go clubbing. “Don’t touch anything,” she tells them. So of course Micky and Walter go off exploring the giant building, touching a whole lotta stuff. Drugs. Pornographic photos of Sybille. Most of all the television. They watch a lot of television despite the shitty reception. Walter is more than content doing just this, zoning out with his feet up, but it’s clear Micky is pissed the job is nothing more than house-sitting.
After Sybille returns with detailed tales of drug-fueled orgies, the story begins to spiral and twist in a slew of directions. Tonally, this film is all over the goddamn place. It’s a dark, monotonous comedy of boredom with a ’90s indies feel. Then it’s a surrealistic portrait of isolation in a wintery void. Then it’s damn near slapstick. There’s also these freeze-frame bits of narration ala Scorsese that are more tedious than anything. It never pulls any of these tones completely off though and a lot of that has to do with the characters.
The only real interesting guy is our main man Walter, played with nearly no dialogue by Jurgen Rissmann. He exudes working-class ennui. You know how when you get a new job, you go out and buy new slacks and some new shirts or whatever? Then after a couple months you’re like “fuck it” and just start wearing the same jeans everyday? Well Walter’s been in the “fuck it” zone for years now. Unfortunately once Berger returns in the story, Walter is pushed into the background and we never really get into his head. The film becomes more about Micky’s brazenness and Berger’s (well-deserved) paranoia.
That’s one aspect of the criminal psyche that’s examined well in Snowman’s Land: paranoia. Berger’s place is surrounded by thick, snow-frosted forest and the characters keep thinking they’re seeing people in them. Maybe they are. Walter fires at his gun at (possibly) imaginary assailants at one point. Micky thinks he sees someone through the window. Berger’s the worst. The main reason he’s brought Walter and Micky to his mansion is to protect it from people he swears are in the woods, waiting to strike. He’s even set land mines. Years of murder, kidnappings, and watching their back have turned this gang of men into paranoids crying wolf.
The film doesn’t dig deeper into anything besides that. The twists are at least unpredictable and the actors are great, but it seems like Thomson couldn’t decide on the tone or what he wanted this movie to be about. He’s damn good at shooting landscape and taxidermy though. The landscape shots are absolutely stunning at times and the cinematography inside the house is framed really nice. It’s the various tones that throw the movie off though and force it to go off track multiple times. If Thomson can make a more focused film it’ll probably be fantastic, so let’s all keep an eye on this dude.
The copy sent to me was a screener that did not include any special features, although the case promises a Making Of and Trailer.
Rating: Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Out of a Possible 5 Stars