Wow! Director Steffen Hacker’s 2018 film, Ingenium, truly whisked me away to the faraway places of Berlin and Thailand, a welcome feeling during this age of self-quarantine. Ingenium also thrilled me to pieces, producing some heart-racing moments akin to famous American action films, minus the cheeky one-liners. Ingenium‘s subject matter was rather serious though, dealing with involuntary scientific research as the story backdrop and having its characters dealing with childhood trauma and memory loss. It is not exactly a grown-up Stranger Things, but rather in its own unique way, Ingenium begins as a mystery and turns into a perfectly fused psycho-sci-fi-thriller.
The film stars Esther Maaß as “Feli”, a young woman who lost her parents in a terrible accident as a child and grew up in an orphanage. In therapy, she remembers her best friend Natascha (Judith Hoersch), whom she grew up in the orphanage with but has now since become estranged while she stays locked away in an insane asylum. Deciding to take the vacation they always wanted to do together, Feli packs up for Thailand, where she meets an accommodating young woman for a night of spontaneous fun. However, her trip goes from fun to terrifying as a deadly run-in results in a mysterious photo being given to her that supposedly holds the key to unlocking her spotty memories. As the facade of her world begins to crumble, Feli must find out the truth of her identity before she can face the truth of the people in her life.
The initial action scene gave me mixed feelings, it was choreographed very well however the music for it sounded like a stock blockbuster action film which did not quite fit with Ingenium’s cinematography – might have been better to have just gone without a score and focus on having the sound mixing emphasize punches and breathing during fight sequences. The movie may have shown its hand as a low budget with its music score, but it could have had me fooled otherwise, as it looked something like a Tony Scott movie, one that dared to have a female lead. It is not exactly a “feminist film” per se, but I did appreciate the intelligence and grit given to the always fully clothed female characters, avoiding the dependence on sex appeal as so many female-fronted action movies tend to do unnecessarily.
I was a little sad to find some subtitles were missing here and there and so I missed whatever dialogue was spoken, but thankfully the film is well-edited and the script is well-acted, resulting in a highly coherent movie. The film had a high quality look to it, but also had a raw style of camerawork with a bit of that handheld movement for the audience to feel like they are in the mix. Also, the coloring felt shadowy, like overcast, helping to create the movie’s dark atmosphere. I did enjoy the play of mental issues with a superpower, these aspects of the narrative reminded me a bit of Glass (2019) and when they intersected, the movie became more intense — even when you think the movie is over something even more intense happens. Though I do not usually appreciate when a movie ends on a cliffhanger that forces an obvious plot for a sequel — I think a sequel should be demanded by the audience, not by the director — I, for the record, would be inclined to watch a sequel of this movie for its powerful display of heroin-ism and its surprisingly suspenseful storyline of shadowy scientific research and trauma.
Ingenium is interesting, as it is a foreign movie but it feels oddly American with familiar action-film shots and musical scoring. Ingenium is shot like an on-the-run type film with a handful of fight scenes and chase sequences, but its narrative fights to be both a science-fiction and a psychological thriller. According to the film’s IMDb page, it has won quite a few awards for best actress and best sci-fi film, which is not surprising, as Esther Maaß blew me away in her gripping performance that brought to life the film’s material of psychosis exasperated by the capability of time jumping. Ingenium was certainly an enthralling watch and can be found on VOD and DVD by anyone looking for an exciting, femme fatale, action, mystery flick and who can deal with a slightly non-chronological storyline.
MOVIE RATING — 7 out of 10 ☠️