12 December 2012 | StevePulaski
The cold becomes heaven
Tim Fehlbaum's Hell depicts planet Earth as a barren, desolate wasteland that was once infested with blooming life. The cinematography of the dry, insufferable heat is so containing and properly handled that it almost bathes the viewer in hot flashes to the point where I was totally willing to step outside with no coat in the middle of Chicago cold. In terms of look, feel, and liveliness, it's a seriously effective thriller. As a film adding to the recent popular but rarely impressive genre of post-apocalyptic thrillers, it's more or less the same thing we've grown accustomed to.
Hell (also ridiculously titled Apocalypse in some retail chains) has one major selling point and that's its producer, the iconic German filmmaker Roland Emmerich, who has made a name for himself in the field of disaster films such as the American adaptation of the Japanese Godzilla series and Independence Day. Perhaps his producer's credit was earned in the fact that he saw a bit of his most recent film (at the time), 2012 in Hell. Unlike his picture which hammed up the nonsensical action and took almost nothing seriously in a long, winded two and a half hour film, Hell capitalizes on character relations and subtlety rather than tossing special effects at the viewer in an apparent contest.
We are placed in 2016, and learn immediately that the Earth has warmed at unprecedented rates, increasing 10°C because of solar flares destroying the atmosphere of Earth. The few survivors must shield their skin with excess clothing, gloves, smocks, and anything they can potentially protect themselves with from the increasing heat of the sun. We soon meet Marie (Hannah Herzsprung) a young woman traveling the ruins of parched roads with her boyfriend and younger sister. After picking up a man who claims that he can help them, (right after almost killing all three of them for their diminishing water supply) the three make an unplanned stop leaving the sister left in the car, which has its windows covered with newspaper and barricaded off. She is taken by a group of survivors who thrive on cannibalism in this newfound hellish world, and after her boyfriend splits, Marie and the hitchhiker attempt to recover her younger sister before she is subjected to uncertain doom.
Fehlbaum treats his characters respectively, not having them shout ridiculous lines, or commit acts of impulsiveness with not even a shred of a thought process as to why. He makes grand use out of his small cast of newcomers and on top of that, creates crafty tension with his co-writers Oliver Kahl and Thomas Woebke using long, uncertain shots that focus either on characters or dried-out, empty landscapes.
But the kicker here is the wonderfully captured, hauntingly displayed, almost blinding cinematography, that cinematographer Markus Förderer personifies into its own character rather quickly. He opens the picture showing off the film's inherently brutal climate with no points of being intrusive or to irritate the casual viewer. It's all a means to concoct suspense and atmosphere for maximum effect. Fehlbaum's Hell has its share of ups and downs, and after a while, you begin to realize you're seeing the same type of areas over and over again. Like movies of its genre, it fluctuates between interesting and not, repetitive and enticing, and beautifully stylistic and much of a muchness. Thankfully, its negative traits are minimized because the film never overstays its eighty-nine minute welcome and provides us with smarter entertainment than I'm sure many of us were expecting.
Starring: Hannah Herzsprung, Stipe Erceg, Lars Eidinger, Lisa Vicari, and Angela Winkler. Directed by: Tim Fehlbaum.