The Dam @ Montreal World Film Festival

the damRoman (Friedrich Mucke) is a young man who is doing some research and transcribing work for a prosecutor in Munich.  His life seems a bit of a mess.  Other than going out and going for runs it does not seem like he leaves his small flat very often.  Most of his day is spent in front of his computer reading and then reciting notes with little human contact.  His poor girlfriend, who he was supposed to meet one evening and left waiting for hours, is frustrated and asks him if he wants to break up.  His indifferent reaction to her question tells her all she needs to know and she leaves angry.

His boss sends Roman a new set of files having to do with a case concerning a high school shooting in a small town in Bavaria.  He has just starting working on the files when his boss video chats with him and asks him to travel to the small town to pick up some files which are missing.  His boss tells him he will just have to stay overnight one night to accomplish this.

Once there he is told by a police officer that not all the files have the required signature needed to release them to Roman so there is going to be a delay.  Unhappy, but left with no other choice Roman has to spend a few more days in the small town.

Eating and having a beer in his car outside a gas station there is a knock on the window.  After rolling it down and having a small discussion with the young woman named Laura (Liv Lisa Fries) he learns that she is a survivor from the high school shooting.  They begin to spend some time together and Roman has a feeling that she knows more about the shooter than she is first letting on.

There is very little fat on the very economical film by Thomas Sieben.  At 89 minutes despite the fact that is a slow film that is character driven (there is not much dialogue) there is no excess or dragged out moments.  The Dam does start off a little slow though it does pick up without pressing down on the accelerator.  Everything is done in a very natural and organic manner.  Nothing about the film feels fake or forced.

The entirety of the film rests firmly on the shoulders of the two young leads and the director and they all show themselves more than capable.  Mucke navigates the tricky currents of his for the large part internalized character.  Without saying much he successfully conveys the emotions hidden under layers of indecision and a slacker attitude.

Roman is drawn inch by inch into the case involving the high school shooting, so much so that when he walks through the high school it happened in he finds himself walking in the shoes of the shooter by recreating the shooting.  An eerie and moving moment.  Director Sieben has wisely decided not to recreate the shooting and that makes this moment in the film all the more impactful.

Not to be outshone by her co-star Liv Lisa Fries does a great job portraying young woman who is not your typical school shooting survivor.  Or more precisely, not the type of survivor we have usually seen on film.  Laura does not spend her time crying rather she is sarcastic and trying to carry on as if nothing had happened.  From my experience this is a more realistic reaction.

As someone who has experienced a school shooting I am very selective about the films I see on this subject.  It takes a sure and steady hand from the director to make a successful film on this subject.  German director Thomas Sieben demonstrated plenty of those two qualities plus a ton of sensitivity to go along with them.  He certainly demonstrated the breadth of his talent at the helm of this picture.

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