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Nothing Bad Can Happen

Other // Unrated // October 14, 2014
List Price: $29.93 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted November 12, 2014 | E-mail the Author
Nothing Bad Can Happen:
Nothing Bad Can Happen is the most heartbreaking art-house exploitation film you're likely to see this year. Gauzy and full of innocent love and grace, the movie takes that love and punches it in the face. Chock full of nuanced performances, the movie limns the extremes of the human condition, in which a plea to the nature of our better angels meets the inexplicable worst human nature can offer. It does all this in sweetly rambling fashion, engaging, heartfelt, staggeringly bleak, yet also hopeful.

The film created a bit of a stir in Cannes, earning comparisons to the work of Lars Von Trier for its seemingly similar bleak world-view. However, whereas Von Trier puts his fictional characters through biblical trials with no hope for redemption - human meat to be ground under the wheels with almost vindictive indifference - Nothing Bad writer/director Katrin Gebbe takes a very different tack in her assured debut.

Comparisons break down immediately, as Gebbe's material is inspired by true events. Tore (Julius Feldmeier) seeks meaning and community with a group a Jesus Freaks in Hamburg. He's looking for a pure path paved with unconditional love and kindness, but gets caught up in antiquated details such as no sex before marriage, whereas his compatriots, in truth, take a more relaxed view. As this schism begins to unfold, Tore and some of his friends pray for, and miraculously 'heal' the car of Benno (Sascah Alexander Gersak) and his family. Benno smugly extends an offer of shelter to the slightly disillusioned, yet reinvigorated Tore, who gently accepts. As Tore becomes intertwined with Benno's family and his sassy daughter Sanny (Swantje Kohlhof ) the equally disillusioned and nominally powerless Benno begins to test Tore's faith. Acts of playfully casual cruelty, meant to break down Tore's defenses, escalate, while Tore digs deep to discover just how many cheeks he has to turn Benno's way.

Sincere and untroubled performances from the Jesus Freaks bolster feelings of 'that's life' realism, allowing Gebbe to repeatedly sucker-punch viewers with the torments Benno inflicts on Tore. As a purely naturalistic cinematic experience, Nothing Bad works almost perfectly. Benno's downscale, idyllic life is informed by his disrespectful children - just itching to get gone. Scenes with the family sitting in the backyard sharing a meal seem lifted from legitimate home movies. Nothing is hurried or overly dramatic, except when punctuated by Benno's cruelty. It's a sweet, country nightmare played out in the soft, insular light of a summer's eve with family. When Benno's wife joins in on the fun, it comes as a sudden shock, and is the only misstep in the movie, as she's previously seen as nothing but a mildly supportive mother and partner.

Tore's aching innocence and stoic resolve further mutes the horror, (Feldmeier delivers an astoundingly relaxed performance) allowing that horror to seep into our consciousness in the way everyday horror always does. Shit happens, and people can be horrible to each other. In following the true story, Gebbe avoids shock tactics the viewer might expect, considering the film's critical reception. This isn't a torture porn movie full of scenes of excruciating, escalating cruelty. This is as much Benno's psychological horror story as it is Tore's. He's a man who's lost his soul to animal instincts that arise, blinding him, when he finds what he sees as contemptible weakness in another. This isn't Von Trier positing that humans (mainly women) are simply meant to suffer terribly. This is Gebbe whispering in our ears, reminding us that our sacred souls are subject to the mindless red mist of our animal natures. Does Benno triumph in cruelty? Does Tore rise above with his unflappable faith that nothing bad can happen to those who teach Jesus' love? Or do we just walk into that cool evening air, heartbroken by the suffering of others, and ashamedly relieved that nothing bad happened to us?


Drafthouse Films' presentation of Nothing Bad Can Happen comes in a 2.35:1 ratio, 1080P transfer that is truly gorgeous. The film's stylized look comes across perfectly, with slightly muted colors that retain a natural appearance. Soft-focus abounds in many background details, looking lush and beautiful. Nonetheless, details are otherwise sharp and film-like. Black levels are nice and deep, while holding details themselves. The movie often sports a gauzy, thematically significant atmosphere, separating the presentation from those of super-crisp blockbuster Blu-rays, while still looking state-of-the-art.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio track works quite well also. Dialog is at the forefront, but mixed appropriately with the soundtrack, with neither fighting for space or attention. The mix isn't meant to be flashy, but handles ambience nicely, ensuring that you're enveloped in the sounds of a house in the country, without making a fuss about its clarity or special dynamics. In short, it sounds great but very natural, in following with the movie's internal dynamic.

Nothing Bad Can Happen comes with a Digital Download Code (Let your kids watch it in the car on a road trip!) and a 15-page Booklet that includes mainly stills from the movie, as well as a four-page Q & A with Gebbe and producer Verena Grafe-Hoff. Two featurettes are included; An Interview with Katrin Gebbe, clocks in at 12 minutes, the interview finds Gebbe discussing the story, casting, the actors, and more. Another 12-minute featurette, Tore Tanzt: A Conversation with Julius, Katrin and Verena allows the director and producer to discuss the film's story with the lead actor. English Subtitles and the Theatrical Trailer round things out.

Final Thoughts:
Nothing Bad Can Happen caused a stir in Cannes, while dividing critics and audiences with its story of mindless cruelty inflicted upon a naive soul walking the path of Jesus. Full of fantastic performances, assured direction, and subtle pacing, the film is a revelation of naturalistic horror and the hope for redemption. Never sensationalistic, the movie instead unfolds with the same imperturbable mystery of life itself - heart-breaking, confounding, and Highly Recommended.

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Highly Recommended

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