Writer-director Nora Fingscheidt’s feature length fiction debut, and Germany’s entry for best foreign picture at this year’s Oscars, is an intense, bruising realist drama. Bernadette aka ‘Benni’ (Zengel) is a troubled nine-year-old given to violent uncontrollable mood swings. Her single mother, Bianca (Hagemister) is in an abusive relationship and, already struggling with two siblings, has to give her daughter up to the child welfare system. But Benni, despite the best efforts of her kindly caseworker Mrs Bafané (Schmeide), proves uncontrollable, a ‘system crasher’ who the authorities cannot cope with, and she is hastily shunted from institution to institution. There’s a glimpse of hope when Benni is provided with a careworker/guardian Micha (Schuch), a man with an implied troubled past who maybe sees something of himself in his young charge. He takes Benni to his cabin in the woods hoping the peace and quiet and one-to-one attention will help. Former documentarian director Fingscheidt’s film is illuminating in its depiction of a system struggling to deal with a seemingly ungovernable child, but the grim cycle of new starts then inevitable disappointments over a two-hour running time renders this a challenging, at times harrowing, watch. Young Zengel is extraordinarily convincing (almost worryingly so) as the nine-year-old protagonist, switching from wide-eyed sweetness to feral rage in an instant.
System Crasher is available on Video on Demand on Curzon Home Cinema