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German Film Festival: The House

In Germany in 2029 a couple move into a house run by Artificial Intelligence, but soon find it does more than merely turn the lights on.

The Australian premiere of this 2021 thriller is tense and moody from the opening scene. Director and co-writer Rick Ostermann (Das Boot, Wolf Children) takes the well-trodden path of rampant Artificial Intelligence and places it amidsts the political turmoil of Germany in 2029, offering more tension and twists than one should reasonably expect.

The futuristic drama is finely paced but not slow. Layer by layer, the story evolves from the simple flight of a disgraced journalist into the realms of political extremism, terrorism, and a futuristic house with a mind of its own. Each plot is a story unto itself, weaving an oppressive tapestry of truth and lies into the life of the fleeing dissident.

Ostermann and his fellow writer Patrick Brunken explore the broken relationship of the main couple under the ever-watching eye and manipulative actions of the house. The consequences grow alongside the increasing political manipulations outside and the unexpected arrival of two suspected terrorist who are connected to the couple. Unlike the common depiction of dystopian futures in other films however, Ostermann leaves the outside world outside, focussing on the progressive claustrophobia within the isolated house and letting the deepening political crisis simply press into their lives.

Das Haus is based on a short story by Dirk Kurbjuweit, whose journalism background has provided ample source material. Tobias Moretti, who will also be seen in The German Lesson during this year’s German Film Festival, gives a finely controlled performance as the protagonist Johann Hellström, matched by Valery Tscheplanowa as his wife Lucia. A small ensemble of support characters add to the mystery and danger, although none of these characters are fleshed out any more than absolutely necessary for the plot. Ironically, it’s the house itself that provides the strongest and most fearsome character. It’s absolute silence, combined with slow, deliberate movements of doors and drawers and other household gadgets is ominous from the start, matched only by the tension of Stefan Will’s dark score.

Das Haus is part relationship drama, part dystopian sci-fi, and part technological thriller. It is nicely acted and filmed, providing 90-minutes of high tension and suspenseful action. With only two screenings during the festival though, be sure Das Haus doesn’t shut you out.

Das Haus is screening as part of the German Film Festival at Palace Nova Eastend and Prospect.

Click here for further details, and to book tickets

A tense and enthralling sci-fi thriller 4 stars

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