Bizarre. Clever. Ridiculous. Entertaining.
These are all adjectives that I would use to describe German crime fantasy Snowflake. The film recently won a pair of awards at CINEPOCALYPSE, including Breakthrough Filmmaker for Arend Remmers & William James and the coveted Audience Award. I can’t say that I’m surprised; this is the kind of film that genre fans go absolutely nuts for.
The main reason Snowflake works? It’s got a kicky premise.
In a nutshell: after Eliana (Xenia Assenza)’s parents are gunned down in a doner restaurant shoot-up, the rich young orphan and her bodyguard Carson (David Masterson) hire a series of (increasingly ridiculous) assassins to take out the killers, Tan (Erkan Acar) and Javid (Reza Brojerdi). While fending off these attempts, the boys discover that they are protected by the titular angel Snowflake (Judith Hoersch). Also: their lives – including a foreshadowed bloody fate – is actually the plot of a crime film written by amateur screenwriter and full time dentist, Arend Remmers (Alexander Schubert).
So not only is Snowflake a demented crime fantasy with outrageous set-pieces, it is a hilariously demented self-referential comedy.
It should be noted that absolutely none of that plot synopsis is a spoiler. All of these details are revealed in the first few scenes when Tan and Javid find a copy of the screenplay in the backseat of their car and discover that it depicts all of their movement and dialogue beat by beat. (Actual) screenwriter Remmers milks this premise for all of its comedic value throughout the film, especially when the killers seek out his fictitious proxy for answers and he recites their dialogue verbatim in real time with them. That encounter ends with the dentist on the receiving end of his drill and the thugs on a mission to alter their own seemingly pre-ordained deaths.
It’s no surprise that the Tan and Javid scenes are often the most enjoyable in the film. Not only do Acar and Brojerdi have an easy going chemistry, their characters are such amateur idiots that you can’t help but root for Tan and Javid to survive. This puts Assenza and Masterson is a slightly unenviable position: Eliana and Carson are seemingly unaware of the divine intervention driving their actions, which makes their side of the story more mundane and straightforward. They’re also slightly underdeveloped; we learn little about Eliana beyond her desire for vengeance and her affection for Carson, who seeks only to protect his charge from further harm.
It’s just really hard to invest in these mopey, morose characters when every few minutes a new bizarre character is being introduced. The assassins are legitimately insane: a pair of brothers who wear rubber pig and chicken masks are usurped by bar owners Rashid (Selam Tadese) and blind Fumo (Eskindir Tesfay) who keep a robot houseboy – named, I kid you not, Shit-Bot – chained up with no explanation. There’s also masked vigilante Hyper Electro Man (Mathis Landwehr) and even an evil Nazi sympathizer Reinhardt (Bruno Eyron) who has a Bond villain lair with masked henchmen. It’s all so silly, dumb and fun you can’t help but grin.
How all of these characters fit together is half of the fun of Snowflake, which barrels forward with endless enthusiasm and gleeful destructive joy. Whenever the film seems to establish a rhythm, a new narrative device is thrown into the mix: chapter titles, action that doubles back on itself, a seemingly unrelated archival talking head interview and a visualization of Remmers’ self-referential screenplay typed directly over Tan and Javid‘s scenes. If any of this sounds reminiscent of a certain experimental crime director/enfant terrible who came to prominence in the mid-90s <cough Tarantino cough>, it’s hard to avoid the obvious comparison.
Hidden amidst the graphic violence, dystopian fantasy and occasional torture porn scenes is an interesting mediation on the origins of violence. Tan and Javid share Eliana‘s origin, suggesting that their terrible history is to blame for hers in an endless cycle where violence begets violence. Unfortunately any nuance of this gets lost in the cacophony of gunfire, vivisection and an exhausting two hour run time. Snowflake may have interesting things to say, but its principle purpose, first and foremost, is to entertain.
In that arena, the film is a pretty clear winner. It’s a gong show, packed (sometimes to a fault) with outrageous scenes and characters and hilariously self-referential comedy. Grab some cheap wine, a bunch of rowdy friends and check this one out.
Snowflake had its North American premiere at Cinepocalypse.