“Where’s your God now?”
Something bad is going to happen in this movie. How do I know? Well, with a title like Nothing Bad Can Happen, how can it not? The freshman debut for German filmmaker Katrin Gebbe, Nothing Bad Can Happen is a disturbing and dark German-language drama inspired by real-life events.
Also known as Tore Tanzt (Tore Dances), Gebbe’s film analyzes the idea of holding on to faith in the face of abject cruelty. It’s a difficult watch, and may be too much for some, but it does deliver a number of powerful performances and a few scenes of creative imagery.
The film follows Tore, a naive vagabond who has entrusted his entire existence to the Jesus Freaks, a “punk” Christian movement that occupies a dilapidated half-way house. Tore, who takes his Christian vows even more seriously than his fellow lovers of Christ, meets a seemingly ordinary family suffering from car trouble on the road. The father of the family, Benno (Sascha Gersak), is pleased and amused when Tore’s prayer to Jesus miraculously brings the car back to life. After a falling out with his Christian brothers, Benno’s family takes Tore in as one of their own.
However, the image of the kind, picture perfect family is quickly revealed to be a farce. Tore is frequently subjected to mental and physical abuse at the hands of Benno, who takes great joy in mocking and testing his faith. Tore, ever steadfast in his love of Jesus, believes that he can demonstrate the love and kindness of God by enduring the unending cruelty that is forced upon him.
Those who enjoy the indie cinematic fare may want to be cautious if they choose to see Nothing Bad Can Happen. While the film features strong performances, particularly when the child actors are on screen, its violence and horrific abuse can be a little more than just disturbing. Mental abuse quickly turns physical, and sexual violence also occurs onscreen.
Gerask’s monstrous Benno is the standout among the adult characters. While not physically imposing (he’s actually shorter than Tore), his sinister personality makes up for his lack of height. Viewers will begin to dread his quiet dead-eye stares, and wince when he starts to smile. A drum of water and a stuffed kangaroo are the weapons he uses. Unusual, yes, but they manage to be effective tools of fear all the same.
The film manages to spend a few quiet moments away from the more violent scenes by showing the budding romance between Tore and Benno’s 15-year-old step-daughter, Sanny (Swantje Kohlhof). While initially unsure of Tore’s place in her home, she quickly gravitates to him for solace from her step-father and aloof mother. He’s kind to her and she returns his kindness in force. There scenes together are the film’s strongest, and she asks the questions that viewers might be thinking about as they’re watching the drama play out on screen.
Why do you believe? Why don’t you fight back? Why don’t you leave? These are the types of questions that Sanny asks. Tore replies that Jesus is testing him, that this is his plan for him. She still questions him, and his answers reveals just how alone he actually is. Without his belief, he would have nothing.
Viewers will have to go with that point of view if they plan to sit through the picture. It can get frustrating to follow Tore’s belief that all of this is just some spiritual test. It reveals something about the character that might be difficult to grasp. His naivety mixed with his feelings of devout faith present a person who is completely dedicated to his mission of proving that the love of Jesus can conquer all. Whether it does or not is up to the audience to interpret for themselves.
While not for the faint of heart, Nothing Bad Can Happen will certainly leave an impact on you long after watching the drama play out. It’s a dark, disturbing and thoughtful film that takes the time to consider whether one’s faith can truly withstand the cruelties of individuals. Nothing Bad Can Happen will be released in theatres Friday, June 27.