Friday Film: Of Victimhood, Girl Groups and Marlene Dietrich

More a filmed performance piece than a conventional movie, Amit Epstein’s “The Stockholm Syndrome Trilogy” — which had its North American premiere last month at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival — mashes up interpretive dance, ‘80s pop, Marlene Dietrich, and same-sex lust into a sometimes-successful fantasia on Jewish victimhood.

The titular condition, of course, manifests as “curiously positive feelings for perpetrators,” as Time magazine puts it. And in a series of surreal set-pieces, Epstein explores his own conflicting emotions — not only as a Jew spellbound by all things Teutonic, but as a gay man apparently into German guys in a big way.

The film’s first section, “Golden Mission,” opens with a girl-group trio lip-synching to a rock version of the “Adon Olam” prayer while a bearded young man in pink knee socks sways along — until they’re interrupted by a Marlene Dietrich lookalike mouthing the words to “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” She hands the boy an LP whose Hebrew-language cover reveals it’s Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” — one of the great Stockholm Syndrome stories of all time — whose musical and psychological themes recur throughout the film.

Two more evocatively named sections — “European Haven” and “Jewish Revenge” — provide more of the same, with suggestive, imagistic sequences driven by eclectic pop and elaborate pantomimes. Epstein produces some haunting imagery; it’s hard to shake the vision of a statuesque blond woman standing over three people at a dinner table sipping soup through rubber bondage masks. And a take on Leonard Cohen’s “First We Take Manhattan,” complete with a Nazi salute, brings a chilling edge to an already-spine-tingling song.

Some jokes fall flat; an overlong parody of a 1980s music video, set in a stark white room, pits a yarmulke-wearing Jew against three blond Europeans to the tune of Depeche Mode’s 1984 hit “People Are People” (sample lyrics: “It’s obvious you hate me though I’ve done nothing wrong / I’ve never even met you so what could I have done”). And the irony of an elaborate chase through Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe wears off quickly. Epstein also lacks pacing, and his static camera placements — probably more a reflection of his budget than his abilities — make “Stockholm Syndrome” a long haul.

Still, it’s hard to fault a film with the guts to puree Almodovar, Matthew Barney, and Jacques Demy into some kind of tasty but toxic soup. And Epstein’s most powerful image — a box of gold teeth that circulates throughout the movie — will stay with you long after the screen goes dark.

Watch the trailer for the third part of ‘The Stockholm Syndrome Trilogy’:

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Friday Film: Of Victimhood, Girl Groups and Marlene Dietrich

Thank you!

This article has been sent!