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Artsploitation Films // R // December 18, 2018
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted January 26, 2019 | E-mail the Author
At one point fairly early in Snowflake, two serial killers – Tan (Erkan Acar) and Javid (Reza Brojerdi) – have finally started to come to grips that the screenplay they found in the back of a stolen Audi spells out every word they're going to say before they say it. Just as they muster the nerve to flip forward in the script and unveil what the future holds, a man in a pig mask darts by and snatches it.

And, yeah, that's a roundabout way of saying that I love the hell out of Snowflake...or Schneeflöckchen, if you prefer titles in their original language or are just a sucker for umlauts.

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If you thought Brexit is shaping up to be a dumpster fire, try to imagine the complete and utter collapse of the European Union as a whole. Berlin suffered the brunt of it. Once among the continent's most brightly gleaming stars, it's since devolved into lawlessness and chaos. I mean, we're not talking Mad Max here or whatever; Berliners still go grocery shopping, still throw birthday parties, and still shell out for ice cream cones on warm, sunny days. It's just that you might go out for a döner kebab and wind up ankle-deep in corpses.

Some poor bastards have to grin and bear it. Others, like Eliana (Xenia Assenza), wield the resources to exact vengeance. After the brutal loss of her parents, Eliana enlists her family's bodyguard (David Masterson) to help her do the whole eye-for-an-eye thing. Old Testament revenge demands an Old Testament God, and Carson just happens to have Him (David Gant) on speed dial. Okay, it's debatable if Caleb is a lower-case "him" or not, but regardless, he/He points Eliana towards all sorts of unsavory characters she could hire to slaughter her parents' murderers. Which one will she choose? Fuck it. All of 'em.

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That's as close to a tidy plot synopsis as you're gonna get from Snowflake. Think Delirious or Stephen King's "Word Processor of the Gods" by way of Pulp Fiction, and...well, you're still nowhere close, but at least you're starting to get a general idea. Snowflake doesn't merely break the fourth wall; it grinds the fourth wall into dust, mixes it with egg and vanilla, and bakes a lovely white cake.

The non-linear storytelling introduces us to all sorts of different characters seemingly in their own disparate storylines – with the times, places, and contexts not always being as clear as you'd think until further along into the film – then everything winds up being masterfully woven together. As soon as you think you've found steady footing in the rules that Snowflake has established, it upends them. There's a sense of discovery here that's central to the movie's success. I love that feeling of not having the faintest idea what's going to happen next or what larger picture these many puzzle pieces will eventually form. And even though screenwriter Arend Remmers is a character in his own film (played by Alexander Schubert), it's hardly self-indulgent meta-for-the-sake-of-meta. Snowflake is a smart, well-crafted film. Even better, a smart, well-crafted film with a mute cannibal who squeals like a pig and a battle royale between a blind bounty hunter and the masked vigilante known as Hyper Electro Man. We're talking about the kind of movie where you learn that oh, by the way, that guy you just met is an android. Why not?

As director Adolfo J. Kolmerer describes it, instead of a bunch of friends getting together on the weekend to grill out and drink beer, they made their own El Mariachi, chipping away it at scene by scene over the course of a couple of years. Despite being shot for something like a quarter of the budget for one of Kolmerer's 30 second commercials, Snowflake looks sensational. Its visual polish consistently impresses, from its makeup effects to the camerawork to what looks to my eyes like very high production values. There's not a weak spot in the cast, and I found myself emotionally invested in just about all of these characters. I can't say that I frequently root for both unapologetically murderous villains and the vengeful, doe-eyed heroine determined to see them gunned down, but that's Snowflake for you. This is a dangerous thing to write in January, but I can't imagine that I'll watch a movie remotely as inventive, funny, unique, bloody, and clever as this all year. It's downhill from here, and I love you for that, Snowflake. Highly Recommended.

At least if the behind the scenes featurette is any indication, Snowflake was shot primarily, if not entirely, on DSLRs. The end result is reasonably crisp and detailed – especially whenever the camera has plenty of light to play with – but reference-quality home theater demo material it's not so much. Its palette, muted though it tends to be, is presented perfectly, and shadow detail is first-rate. Despite three hours of high definition video crammed onto a single-layer disc, I couldn't spot any definite artifacting or the like in normal viewing. Sometimes digital noise in the background would seem more pronounced to me, but not ruinously so. The strain is more visible when I'd snap screenshots or fiddle with gamma curves, but that's not how any normal human being would watch a movie, so I'm not going to hold that against this disc.

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Snowflake is presented on Blu-ray at its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. This isn't a combo pack, so don't expect a DVD or digital copy code this time around.

I'll confess to being surprised at the lack of lossless audio. Both of Snowflake's soundtracks are presented in DVD-quality Dolby Digital: a 448kbps 5.1 track as well as a 192kbps stereo mix. Given that the German Blu-ray release does include DTS-HD Master Audio, I wonder if the audio was downgraded so that the whole package would fit on a single BD-25 disc.

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Considering those limitations, Snowflake still sounds terrific. The film's dialogue is a mix of German and English, with just a smattering of Polish. (English subtitles are enabled by default, and it's nice to see that a stream captioned for the deaf and hard of hearing has been included as well.) The sound design is as cinematic as they come, with a heavy emphasis on directionality that seizes hold of every available channel. This extends to dialogue as characters move around the screen. Whether it's a torrential downpour, a rowdy crowd at a strip club, the reverberation of THE VOICE OF GOD or the whirring of serial killers being strung up from a decaying, industrial ceiling, Snowflake really sets out to make the most of this whole multichannel thing. Bass response can be colossal as well, from the all-encompassing roar of Tan and Javid's apocalyptic flashbacks to shotgun blasts to thunderous percussion. Snowflake appears to mark the first feature film credit for composer Román Fleischer, but if his outstanding score here is any indication, his is a name to watch out for.

I braced myself for the worst when I saw Dolby Digital exclusively listed in the tech specs, but I'm still walking away impressed by what's been delivered here.

  • Making Of Featurette (59 min.; HD): It's not often that I watch an hour-long behind the scenes featurette and ask "wait, that's it?!" afterwards. That's not a slight against this making-of piece: an extensive collection of fly-on-the-wall footage captured throughout Snowflake's two year production. It's just that with a film this daring and ambitious, I really would've loved to have heard more about the genesis of the project...about a production process nearly as unconventional as Snowflake itself.

    Though it's light on those sorts of details, with the documentarians' cameras only occasionally addressed, this untitled feature is still a blast to watch. Everything from a birthday celebration to slathering viscera around a diner floor to fight choreography to leaning out the back of a car with a camera gets lovingly documented here. It's a bear hug of a making-of featurette, showing what a labor of love Snowflake is and the camaraderie among everyone on the set. I still wish there had been more conventional interviews as well, or perhaps the audio commentary from the German home video release, but admirers of the film will still no doubt find this well worth setting aside an hour to watch.

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    For anyone keeping track at home, this making-of featurette is presented in 720p, presumably to make the most of a limited bit budget.

  • Trailer (3 min.; HD): The only other extra is a high-def trailer.

Also, I just have to say how in awe I am of that cover art. I knew absolutely nothing about Snowflake beforehand, but the cover alone sold me on writing this review, and I sure am glad I took that chance.

The Final Word
This last bit is where I'd traditionally reduce the review down to a few short sentences, but I can't really do that with a film that defies classification or description the way Snowflake does. Instead, I'll just say that movies like this are the reason I write reviews – the hope of coming across something wonderful and unique that otherwise would have slinked in under my radar, as well as the opportunity to help others discover the same. If I'd reviewed Snowflake when Artsploitation brought it to Blu-ray late last year, it would easily have made my Best of 2018 list.

If you have a taste for the unconventional, or if the phrase "Chekhov's chainsaw" makes your ears perk up, you owe it to yourself to check out Snowflake. A more extensive special edition like Capelight Pictures' in Germany would've earned DVD Talk's top rating, but this disc still comes very Highly Recommended.
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Highly Recommended

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