Four Hands

Aside from being a glossy, engrossing thriller, Oliver Kienle’s (Stronger Than Blood) Four Hands raises some rather engaging questions about the nature of rehabilitation. Can people ever truly change, or are they forever defined by the sins they commit in their younger days? Can criminals learn from their mistakes, even if those affected by their hazardous behavior aren’t yet ready to entertain the idea of forgiveness? In between gripping set pieces and abiding suspense, this German tale of anxious suspense examines the residual effects of trauma, and the unflappable demons born out of our deepest grief.

After witnessing an unspeakable crime in their youth, sisters Sophie (Frida-Lovisa Hamann) and Jessica (Friederike Becht) were forced to band together, relying solely on each other to deal with the lingering aftermath of mental suffering. Their nightmares are made a reality, twenty years after the horrific event, when the perpetrators are released from prison and allowed to coexist with them in the same city. Reeling from the news, Jessica wants to confront her tormentors, but Sophie simply wants to sweep it all under the rug and carry on with her life as a struggling pianist.

“…when the perpetrators are released from prison and allowed to coexist with them in the same city.”

On paper, Four Hands seems like it would be a run-of-the-mill revenge thriller, but Oliver Kienle makes sure that the film’s vivid technical appeal gives the film a distinct look. Cinematographer Yoshi Heimrath’s eerie lens boasts an onslaught of ambitious camerawork, with towering overhead vantage points, lengthy gliding tracking shots, and a disorienting, shifting axis. Even in its unrelenting brutality, the film remains tasteful, as the visual gymnastics are often coupled with the brilliant use of silence. Kienle’s chief asset appears to be his commendable restraint.  

Although the plot can sometimes veer into the preposterous and the script’s twists and turns aren’t nearly as unpredictable as Kienle would like to believe, Four Hands works as an entertaining exercise in genre filmmaking. Even as we see the gears turning before us, this spellbinding amusement park ride continuously finds clever ways to maintain the tension, right into its harrowing final moments. This is the sort of international crossover hit that will undoubtedly be optioned for an American remake. Well-earned thrills transcend the language barrier, inviting viewers from all walks of life to feel delightfully uneasy.

Carefully balancing breakneck momentum and a heartfelt investigation of the grieving process is no simple feat, but Kienle is mostly up to the task. As an American, it’s refreshing to see an action thriller that isn’t simply a blatant cash grab. Thankfully, with Four Hands, Kienle is interested in the moral ramifications of the world he’s created, and as such, we see him exploring the psychological weight of trauma, rather than simply celebrating a vengeful barrage of violence. In so doing, he gets to the heart of the terror lurking beneath the surface.

Four Hands (2018)  Directed by Oliver Kienle. Written By Oliver Kienle. Starring Frida-Lovisa Hamann, Friederike Becht, Christoph Letkowski, Agnieszka Guzikowska, Detlef Bothe.

8 out of 10

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