System Crasher

Nora Fingscheidt’s harrowing and, at times, shocking look at the limits of the care system also managed to produce some truly touching and uplifting moments. System Crasher is at once intense, brutal, demoralising, hope-building and also hope-destroying. Watching it you feel like you are on an ever descending series of peaks (hopes) and troughs (despair) as a troubled young girl with intense anger issues, Benni (the outstanding Helena Zengel), progresses through yet another level of therapy or care.

Benni gets passed from person to person, from her mother to the system, then through the system towards more and more intensive treatment as she exceeds their ability to care for her and their attempts to curb her behaviour fall short. Because of the process we go through multiple chances of hope as Benni seems to be making progress only to be dashed and destroyed as her temper gets the better of her once again.

Being abandoned by her mother and mistreated and abused by her father-figure has lead to this behaviour and the need for intervention. The lack of parenting and protection has lead to her current situation but Benni’s love for her mother is unbounded, but it becomes clear that it is unwarranted, as her mother constantly lets her down, culminating in running away in a highly emotional scene as it is left up to Benni’s care givers to tell her that her mother isn’t coming back and can’t look after her. This is a girl who has been let down from the start and continues to be let down by the system that can’t deal with her, even though there are a few people who try their best to help her, always be there for her.

So when her school escort, Micha (Albrecht Schuch), steps in to try something different and almost makes a breakthrough, making a more significant connection than anyone else, hope is on the rise again but it soon becomes clear that this is frought with pain and issues as Benni seizes on this to attach herself Micha’s family unit, crossing the boundaries of care giver and dependent, thereby isolating herself from those who are doing the best for her. Again. But this isn’t all her fault, she has been let down again and again.

The score is in tone with the rest of the film, really coming to the fore in the intense, aggressive moments with the use of heavy beats and percussion. The cinematography is wonderfully colourful and especially beautiful when they get out into the wilds.

System Crasher is such a fantastic film built around an absolutely fantastic performance from Helena Zengel, even though it is hard to say you liked, but it is powerful, intense and hugely impressive with so much going for it. This film is going to stay with me for a long time.

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