TIFF Next Wave 2014: For No Eyes Only – Film Review
Director: Tali Barde Writer: Tali Barde Actors: Benedict Sieverding, Luisa Gross, Tali Barde Rating: NYR Runtime: 97 min
Classic films simply do not require updating, and this theory extends into the realm of the great works by legendary director Alfred Hitchcock. Watch any Hitchcock masterpiece, such as Psycho (1960), and it quickly becomes clear that any remake pales in comparison. Hitchcock may not have had the technological tools now at our disposal, but he had the ability to create genuine suspense and fear nonetheless, and his films demonstrate that one does not need graphic violence or computer generated imagery to be scared. Although remakes may be unnecessary, odes certainly are not. The German film For No Eyes Only (2012) is clearly inspired by the Hitchcock masterpiece Rear Window (1954), yet it remains its own film and does not aspire to recreate the original. Instead, a different and modern approach is applied to the genre of voyeuristic thriller.
After a hockey injury leaves him immobile, teenager Sam Anders (Benedict Sieverding) is desperate to find a way in which to amuse himself during long days spent cooped up in his bedroom. Once the young computer genius discovers a way to hack into the webcams of his classmates and observe them unnoticed, he quickly finds a fascinating way to pass the time. Acting as a typical teenage boy, Sam begins by spying on attractive female schoolmates, especially his cute crush Livia Roemer (Luisa Gross). Soon, however, Sam begins to notice some odd goings-on in the bedroom of new kid Aaron Ramond (Tali Barde), and when he becomes convinced that Aaron has murdered his father, Sam and Livia embark on a mission to uncover the truth that inevitably spirals out of their control.
Like the classic that inspired it, For No Eyes Only evolves into a thriller slowly, taking great care to set up its action first. Main characters Sam and Livia are presented as typical yet highly likable teenagers who act like anyone of their age: they have fun discovering the secrets of their classmates, yet do not know how to react when they find something much darker than they could have hoped for. This German film was an excellent choice for the TIFF Next Wave Film Festival where it is screening, as it demonstrates how kids are kids, regardless of the country in which they live. Although their actions seem natural, their dialogue often appears stilted or contrived; however, it is highly likely that this flaw is due entirely to poorly nuanced subtitling, since the film is in German and their words have been translated for an English audience. Not only are the kids relatable, but the scenario that they present is as well, as it really is not all that far fetched. I would not be surprised to learn that it is possible to hack into my webcam, and the film feels relevant for this reason.
Director Barde chooses to use high contrast lighting and slightly unfocused camerawork to accurately reflect the way in which the world appears through the lens of a webcam. Indeed, one may feel as though they are watching the entire film through a Skype or Facetime call. This strategy allows an audience to live the story with Sam and to view many scenes as he would, as well as to see him in the same manner, presenting an unsettling idea. Unique shots, such as a detailed exploration of the making of a cup of copy, offer interesting stylistic decisions that may not be entirely necessary but are distinctly un-Hollywood. Although the film is often silent, working to reflect Sam’s boredom, occasional music highlights moments of tension. Overall, however, I would not classify this film as a thriller. Instead, it is more of a portrait of the lives of seemingly average teenagers who are placed in ordinary, and then extraordinary, situations and asked to react accordingly. There were more moments of humour, as one relates to the characters on screen, then there were of fear, yet the ending does retain the ability to cause suspense and intrigue.
Like its inspiration, the Hitchcock thriller Rear Window, For No Eyes Only takes its time introducing its characters as it sets up its action. The film at hand does not go much farther than this, choosing to embrace humour and paint a portrait of the teenage life as opposed to go for the thrills, but that is a legitimate directorial decision. These characters and their voyeurisms are enough to keep a viewer intrigued, even removed from the murder subplot. Although there are weaker moments when it turns typical, For No Eyes Only ultimately offers a fun and modern take on a classic idea, with some interesting stylistic moments thrown in to boot.
Screening Time: Sunday, February 16th at 1:30pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox