• FILM

  • SEARCH FOR

Nothing Bad Can Happen

Nothing Bad Can Happen

Directed by Katrin Gebbe. Starring Julius Feldmeier, Sascha Alexander Gersak, Annika Kuhl, Swantje Kohlhof, Til Theinert. (2012, NR, 110 min.)

REVIEWED By William Goss, Fri., June 27, 2014

For Tore (Feldmeier), having three words tattooed across his scrawny back – “Teach Me Lord” – is a proud display of his devotion. Others will read the mantra as an invitation to test the young Christian’s faith and flesh. For director Katrin Gebbe, the very title of her first feature comes across as a grimly ironic refutation: Nothing Bad Can Happen.

But of course, all this trouble stems from only the best of intentions, as Tore joins up with the Jesus Freaks, a collection of born-again punk rocker types based in Hamburg, and soon after crosses paths with Benno (Gersak) and his family. Prone to epileptic fits, Tore accepts each seizure as a measure of divine influence, but when the Freaks leave Tore to flail around in the midst of a mosh pit, only Benno reaches out to save him.

Eventually disenchanted with his brethren once the sex and the drugs catch up with their rock & roll, Tore is happily taken in by Benno, wife Astrid (Kuhl), her teenage daughter Sanny (Kohlhof), and younger son Dennis (Theinert). However, as Benno’s overly forceful personality becomes increasingly evident, Tore refuses to leave Sanny and Dennis behind, intent on standing his ground and turning the other cheek in the face of escalating cruelties.

Inspired by true events, Gebbe’s compelling depiction of trailer-park martyrdom does become quite the grueling experience, as this wicked stepfather concocts all manner of ways to exploit his guest’s boundless devotion. However, for all of its visceral unpleasantness, the writer/director smartly remains ambiguous about whether or not Tore’s faith is misplaced, if not outright delusional, in a household where he alone demonstrates a capacity for basic human kindness. Feldmeier’s convincingly determined turn contrasts well enough with Gersak’s mounting menace to make either interpretation fair game.

The film’s three chapter headings (“Faith,” “Love,” “Hope”) seem less glib than the title does, identifying the primary emotional underpinnings of these relationships, even when bleak behavior threatens to dominate. Some of Benno’s punishments come across as more desperately extreme than others: Forcing Tore to swallow rotten food has a certain banal resourcefulness, while sending him off to get sodomized in a gay club feels far less likely.

For the most part, though, Nothing Bad manages to hold a tight grip, evocative as it is of Lars von Trier’s similarly unflinching Dogville and equally bound to start some conversations among those willing to stomach it.

READ MORE
More Nothing Bad Can Happen
DVDanger: The Evil That Men Do
DVDanger: The Evil That Men Do
Nothing Bad Can Happen, and other meditations on darkness

Richard Whittaker, Oct. 14, 2014

Drafthouse Says 'Nothing Bad Can Happen'
Drafthouse Says 'Nothing Bad Can Happen'
Local distributor acquires German morality play

Richard Whittaker, May 24, 2013

More by William Goss
Love & Mercy
Paul Dano anchors an ambitious vision of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson

June 5, 2015

Poltergeist
They're here … again. But why?

May 29, 2015

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Nothing Bad Can Happen, Katrin Gebbe, Julius Feldmeier, Sascha Alexander Gersak, Annika Kuhl, Swantje Kohlhof, Til Theinert

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
This content has not been formatted for this window size.
Please increase the size of your browser window, or revisit this page on a mobile device.
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)