Berlin Syndrome (film)

Berlin Syndrome is a 2017 Australian-French psychological horror thriller film directed by Cate Shortland, written by Shaun Grant and starring Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Melanie Joosten and tells the story of a young Australian photographer who travels to Germany, where she meets an attractive young English teacher. Waking up after a stormy night of passion with him, the photographer is suddenly taken hostage by her would-be lover.

Berlin Syndrome
Berlin Syndrome.jpg
Theatrical film poster
Directed byCate Shortland
Written byShaun Grant
Based onBerlin Syndrome
by Melanie Joosten
Produced byPolly Staniford
CinematographyGermain McMicking
Edited byJack Hutchings
Music byBryony Marks
Distributed byEntertainment One (Australia)
Netflix (France)
Release dates
  • January 20, 2017 (2017-01-20) (Sundance)
  • April 20, 2017 (2017-04-20) (Australia)
  • August 27, 2017 (2017-08-27) (France)
Running time
116 minutes
Box office$788,191[2]

Berlin Syndrome 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, the film received very positive reviews from critics, with many praising the atmosphere, and the performances of Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt


Clare Havel, a young Australian backpacker, is exploring Berlin when she meets a local man named Andi and has a one-night stand with him. The next morning, however, Clare finds that Andi has locked her in his apartment.

Believing Andi just simply forgot to leave a key, Clare decides to stay with him another night and they actually go out dancing. Soon, however, Clare realises Andi has no intention of ever letting her go, discovering that he has written the word meine (German for 'mine') on her shoulder and has also stolen her SIM card from her phone.

Clare tries escaping by smashing the windows but discovers they are double paned and reinforced with plexiglas. In addition, all of the other apartments in the building are abandoned and there is no one to hear her cries.

To her amazement, when Andi comes home, he acts as if nothing is wrong, offering her flowers and pesto. This causes an enraged Clare to attack him, but he restrains her by tying her to the bed.

While Clare is confined to his apartment, Andi goes to dinner with his father Erich and mentions that he is dating Clare. Andi's father asks what happened to his previous girlfriend Natalie, and Andi tells him that she went back to Canada.

Erich mentions Andi's mother, prompting Andi to speak bitterly about how she defected to the west before the Berlin 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. Clare asks Andi if he ever thinks about his previous girlfriends and he replies that he doesn't.

Meanwhile, Andi pretends that things are normal, cheerfully telling Clare, "I told my father about us" and "I texted your mother for you." Clare stabs Andi with a screwdriver and flees the apartment, but Andi catches up with her in the empty courtyard, bringing Clare back after breaking her hand as she tries to escape into another building.

One night, Franka, a student at the school where Andi teaches English, shows up at his apartment and flirts with him because he had leered at her during gym class that day. Before answering the door, Andi warns Clare that he will kill Franka if she learns that he is holding her prisoner. When Franka sees a flash of Clare in a towel, Andi tells her it is his girlfriend and threatens to report Franka to the school, causing her to leave.

Meanwhile, Andi continues with his bizarre behaviour, taking polaroids of Clare in disturbing positions, cutting off pieces of her hair, and retreating to a locked room of the apartment, presumably to masturbate. 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 but Clare is left in the apartment with the power turned off. Unable to escape, a weakened Clare takes polaroids of herself and eats what is left of the food until Andi finally returns. Clare appears relieved as she had assumed he was not going to come back, and comforts Andi for his loss, having sex with him.

As the holidays approach, Clare's mood brightens slightly: she learns to play the accordion, and starts baking and cleaning for Andi. For Christmas, Andi gives her books and his father's old dog, which he ends up killing a few days later because he is jealous of their relationship.

Just after Christmas, Andi takes Clare out into the forest, planning to kill her with an axe. Before he does, a young boy cries out running toward them saying his brother has hurt his leg. Clare whispers to the boy to go get help, but he doesn't understand English and becomes afraid of her.

After the boy's mother appears, Andi takes Clare home where she eventually breaks into the locked room and finds a massage chair and a photo album filled with polaroids of what looks to be Natalie, whom Andi had presumably kidnapped and murdered before her. On New Years Eve night, when Andi is at a co-worker's party, an older man holding a flashlight sees Clare in one of the unboarded windows and attempts to rescue her. Andi comes home, however, and kills her would-be rescuer with a crowbar. Andi then forces Clare to help wrap the body in plastic, telling her it's her fault the man is dead. Andi takes the body outside and burns it in a dumpster in the courtyard.

More time passes as Clare is held prisoner. Andi sees a missing person's advert for Clare in the newspaper, which includes a photo of her. 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 leaves the room 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 there for Franka 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.

Clare lures Andi into the apartment, hiding on the floor immediately above the one in which she was held hostage. Andi calls her name, but Clare answers intermittently to confuse Andi.

When Andi comes back to his apartment, Clare calls from behind. Before Andi can react, she locks the door from outside. Clare then rescues Franka from the kitchen cabinet in the upstairs apartment. The ending suggests Clare finally enjoys her freedom riding in a cab through Berlin's busy streets.


  • Teresa Palmer as Clare Havel
  • Max Riemelt as Andi Werner
  • Matthias Habich as Erich Werner, 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
  • Lucie Aron as Elodie Zadikan
  • Morgane Ferru as Jesie Lamarque
  • Thuso Lekwape as Billy Dharma
  • Nassim Avat as Aron Hurwitz


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.[3]

In May 2015, Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt joined the cast.[4] Riemelt was chosen from a shortlist of 10 male actors. [3]


Production began in September 2015 in Berlin. For two weeks prior to filming, Palmer and Riemelt stayed together in a small apartment similar to the one on the set.[3]

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]


Box officeEdit

Berlin Syndrome has grossed $28,660 in the United States and Canada, and $759,531 in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $788,191, sales of its DVD/Blu-ray releases have cashed $22,663.[2]

Critical responseEdit

Berlin Syndrome was met with positive reviews. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 76% based on 90 reviews, and an average rating of 6.5/10. 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 "Berlin Syndrome (2016)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Berlin Syndrome (2017)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Brunner, Ula (16 February 2017). "Ich fühle mich gleichzeitig fremd und vertraut hier" (in German). Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg. Archived from the original on 9 September 2017. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  4. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin. "Teresa Palmer To Lead Cate Shortland's 'Berlin Syndrome'". Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  5. ^ AZA (4 November 2015). "CATE SHORTLAND'S NEW FILM "BERLIN SYNDROME" STARTS SHOOTING IN MELBOURNE". The Low Down Under. Archived from the original on 8 September 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  6. ^ Debruge, Peter. "Sundance Film Festival Unveils 2017 Competition, Next Lineups". Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  7. ^ "Berlin Syndrome". Sundance Film Festival. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  8. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. "Vertical & Netflix Acquire Sundance Pic 'Berlin Syndrome'". Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  9. ^ Goodfellow, Melanie (5 November 2015). "Artificial Eye snaps up Palmer-starring 'Berlin Syndrome'". Screen International. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  10. ^ "Berlin Syndrome". Village Cinemas. Archived from the original on 1 March 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  11. ^ "Berlin Syndrome". Variety Insight. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  12. ^ "Berlin Syndrome". Launching Films. Archived from the original on 1 March 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  13. ^ "Berlin Syndrome (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  14. ^ "Berlin Syndrome Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 10 March 2021.

External linksEdit