Berlin Syndrome (film)

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Berlin Syndrome
Berlin Syndrome.jpg
Theatrical film poster
Directed by Cate Shortland
Produced by Polly Staniford
Written by Shaun Grant
Based on Berlin Syndrome
by Melanie Joosten
Music by Bryony Marks
Cinematography Germain McMicking
Edited by Jack Hutchings
Distributed by
  • Entertainment One
  • (Australia)
  • Netflix (France)
Release date
  • 20 January 2017 (2017-01-20) (Sundance)
  • 20 April 2017 (2017-04-20) (Australia)
  • 27 August 2017 (2017-08-27) (France)
Running time
116 minutes
  • Australia
  • France[1]
  • English
  • German

Berlin Syndrome is a 2017 Australian-French[1] psychological thriller drama film directed by Cate Shortland, and written by Shaun Grant, based upon the novel of the same name by Melanie Joosten. The film tells about a young photographer Clare, going to Germany, where she meets an attractive guy Andi. Waking up after a stormy night of passion, Clare realizes that Andi locked her in the apartment and is not going to let her go.

Starring Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt, it had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on 20 January 2017 and was released in Australia on 20 April 2017, by Entertainment One.


Clare (Teresa Palmer), a young Australian backpacker, is exploring Berlin when she meets a local man named Andi (Max Riemelt) and has a one-night stand with him. The next morning, however, she finds that he has locked her in his apartment. Clare believes Andi when he says he accidentally forgot to leave her a key, and she stays with him another night. Soon, however, Clare realises Andi has no intention of ever letting her go, discovering that he has written the word meine (mine) on her shoulder and stolen her SIM card from her phone. Clare tries to escape by smashing the windows but discovers they are double paned. To her amazement, when Andi comes home, he acts like nothing is wrong, offering her flowers and pesto. She attacks him but he physically restrains her, then keeps her tied up.

While Clare is confined to his apartment, Andi goes to dinner with his father, a professor, and mentions that he's dating a new woman. Andi's father asks what happened to Natalie, and Andi tells him that she went back to Canada. His father mentions Andi's mother, prompting Andi to speak bitterly about how she defected to the west before the Wall came down. That night, when Andi lets Clare shower, she is horrified to find long blond hair clumped in the drain, and realises she is probably not his first victim. Meanwhile, Andi pretends that things are normal, cheerfully telling Clare, "I told my father about us" and "I texted your mother for you." Clare uses a screwdriver to attack Andi and flee the apartment, but he catches up with her and brings her back after breaking her hand.

One night, Franka, a student at the sports school where Andi teaches, shows up at his apartment. Andi warns Clare that he will kill Franka if she gets to know that he is holding her prisoner. When Franka sees a flash of Clare in a towel, Andi tells her it's his girlfriend and puts her down, causing her to leave. Meanwhile, Andi continues with his bizarre behaviour, taking Polaroids of Clare in disturbing positions and cutting off pieces of her hair. Some time later, Andi finds out his father has died in his sleep. A depressed Andi stays in his father's house for a week, while Clare is left in the apartment with the power turned off. Unable to escape, she takes Polaroids of herself and eats what is left of the food until Andi finally returns. Clare appears relieved as she thought he was not going to come back, she comforts Andi for his loss and sleeps with him.

As the holidays approach, Clare's mood brightens slightly: She learns the accordion, bakes and cleans. For Christmas, Andi gives her books and his father's old dog, which he kills a few days later as he is jealous of their relationship. Just after Christmas, Andi takes her out into the forest, planning to kill her with an axe. Before he does, a child cries out running toward them saying his brother has hurt his leg. She whispers to the boy to go to the police, but he does not understand English and is afraid of her. After the boy's mother appears, Andi takes Clare home. She eventually breaks into a locked room within the apartment and finds a photo book filled with Polaroids of what looks to be the blonde Natalie, whom Andi had presumably kidnapped and murdered before her.

A man with a flashlight sees Clare in one of the unboarded windows and attempts to rescue her as she cries for help. Andi comes home just then and viciously kills the man. He then forces Clare to help wrap the body in plastic, telling her it's her fault. He takes the body outside and burns it. More time passes as Clare is held prisoner. Andi sees a column in the newspaper about Clare being searched as a missing person. He tells her to pack her things into a backpack under the pretense that he is having the flat fumigated. Seeing a stack of workbooks that Andi is grading, Clare intentionally burns her hand on the stove and steals one of them when Andi goes to get her ointment. Later, Andi leaves for the final time, turning the power and water off as he goes.

At work, Andi hands out his students' workbooks, including Franka's. Inside hers, Franka discovers a Polaroid of a bound Clare that she had hidden for the girl to find. As Franka leaves the classroom in shock, the Polaroid falls to the floor and is discovered and passed around by the other students. Andi quickly realises that he has been exposed and leaves in a panic, speeding back to his house. Franka rides her bike to the apartment and finds Clare just before Andi arrives. In hiding, Clare is finally able to trap Andi in the part of the house where he had kept her. She is seen later riding in a taxicab, putting back on a necklace her mother had given her that Andi had stolen. The film ends with Clare crying happily as she peers outside the car window, finally free.


  • Teresa Palmer as Clare
  • Max Riemelt as Andi Werner
  • Matthias Habich as Erich, Andi's father
  • Emma Bading as Franka Hummels
  • Elmira Bahrami as Jana
  • Christoph Franken as Peter
  • Lara Marie Müller as Silke
  • Viktor Baschmakov as Benni
  • Mascha Wolf as Mascha
  • Matthias Russel as Jakob
  • Elias Esser as Boy 1
  • Claude Heinrich as Boy 2
  • Lucie Aron as Elodie Zadikan
  • Morgane Ferru as Jesie Lamarque
  • Thuso Lekwape as Billy Dharma
  • Nassim Avat as Aron Hurwitz
  • Malin Steffen as Swedish Girl
  • Kristina Kostiv as Russian Girl
  • Peter Young as Squatter
  • Rene Barra as Coal Man
  • Charly Thorn as Young Woman
  • Cem Tuncay as Passenger
  • Vitus Wieser as Policeman
  • Maia Absberg as Bar Member
  • Mariella Josephine Aumann as Young Girl
  • Nadine Peschel as Mother
  • Engin Karavul as Stall Owner


Producer Polly Staniford, actor Max Riemelt and director Cate Shortland at the Berlinale 2017

The film is based on the novel of the same name by Melanie Joosten, and the title is a reference to Stockholm syndrome. According to director Cate Shortland, the character of Andi had romanticised and idealised the East Germany of his childhood, and wanted to recreate a utopia in his own life.[2]

In May 2015, Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt joined the cast.[3] Riemelt was chosen from a shortlist of 10 male actors; Shortland felt he best portrayed the lack of shame of a true sociopath.[2]


Production began in September 2015 in Berlin.[4] For two weeks prior to filming, Palmer and Riemelt stayed together in a small apartment similar to the one on the set.[2]

In November 2015, filming moved to Docklands Studios Melbourne in Australia.[5]


The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on 20 January 2017.[6][7] Prior to Entertainment One, Curzon Artificial Eye, Vertical Entertainment and Netflix acquired Australian, United Kingdom, United States distribution rights, respectively.[8][9] It was released in Australia on 20 April,[10] in the United States on 5 May,[11] and in the United Kingdom on 9 June 2017.[12]


Berlin Syndrome was met with positive reviews. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 73% based on 82 reviews, and an average rating of 6.3/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Berlin Syndrome offers thriller fans an uncommonly well-written descent into dangerous obsession, enlivened by taut direction and a committed performance from Teresa Palmer."[13] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 70 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[14]


Award Category Subject Result
AACTA Awards
Best Film Polly Staniford Nominated
Best Direction Cate Shortland Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Shaun Grant Nominated
Best Actress Teresa Palmer Nominated
Best Editing Jack Hutchings Nominated
Best Original Music Score Bryony Marks Nominated
Best Production Design Melinda Doring Nominated
Best Costume Design Maria Pattison Nominated
AFCA Awards Best Film Berlin Syndrome Nominated
Best Director Cate Shortland Nominated
Best Actress Teresa Palmer Nominated
Best Screenplay Shaun Grant Nominated
Best Cinematography Germain McMicking Nominated
ASSG Award Best Achievement in Sound for Film Sound Recording Dane Cody, Auryn Lacy, Steffen Graubaum, Felix Kaufmann & Tom Herdman Nominated
Best Achievement in Sound for Film Sound Mixing Sam Gain-Emery, Phil Heywood (re-recording mixer) & Glenn Humphries Nominated
AWGIE Award Best Writing in a Feature Film - Adaptation Shaun Grant Nominated
Dallas International Film Festival Grand Jury Prize - Narrative Feature Competition Cate Shortland Nominated
FCCA Awards Best Film Polly Staniford Nominated
Best Director Cate Shortland Nominated
Best Actress Teresa Palmer Nominated
Best Cinematography Germain McMicking Nominated
Best Original Score Bryony Marks Won
Best Editing Jack Hutchings Nominated
Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize - World Cinema — Dramatic Cate Shortland Nominated


  1. ^ a b c "Berlin Syndrome (2016)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Brunner, Ula (16 February 2017). "Ich fühle mich gleichzeitig fremd und vertraut hier" (in German). Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg. Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  3. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin. "Teresa Palmer To Lead Cate Shortland's 'Berlin Syndrome'". Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  4. ^ Gusmaroli, Danielle (29 September 2015). "Is it all catching up? A tired-looking Teresa Palmer is make-up free and braced against the cold in a voluminous quilted jacket as she films Berlin Syndrome". Daily Mail. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  5. ^ AZA (4 November 2015). "CATE SHORTLAND'S NEW FILM "BERLIN SYNDROME" STARTS SHOOTING IN MELBOURNE". The Low Down Under. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  6. ^ Debruge, Peter. "Sundance Film Festival Unveils 2017 Competition, Next Lineups". Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  7. ^ "Berlin Syndrome". Sundance Film Festival. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  8. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike. "Vertical & Netflix Acquire Sundance Pic 'Berlin Syndrome'". Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  9. ^ Goodfellow, Melanie (5 November 2015). "Artificial Eye snaps up Palmer-starring 'Berlin Syndrome'". Screen International. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  10. ^ "Berlin Syndrome". Village Cinemas. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  11. ^ "Berlin Syndrome". Variety Insight. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  12. ^ "Berlin Syndrome". Launching Films. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  13. ^ "Berlin Syndrome (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
  14. ^ "Berlin Syndrome Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 8, 2018.

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