While the film’s focus is on solving the murder, which is pretty easy to figure out, we see politics at play throughout. City leaders want the crime solved to avoid word getting out that people are randomly dying in Bremen. Also, Senator Droste is a proponent of the railway project, he was appointed solely because his father was a senator once, and his reputation is at stake as his opponents can use the failed investigation to stop the trains from coming.
Then there’s the issue of gender roles as Frauline Böhmer is continually having her femininity thrown in her face. Expressing her desire to become a lawyer is quickly dismissed by literally everyone. After she interrogates Gottfried alone, the men ask her if the “cat party” is over. Then when not invited to the cemetery, for the exhumation of the victims, Senator Droste assumes only a man can stomach the sight.
The best part of Effigy – Poison And The City is its two lead actors. Elisa Thiemann, as Böhmer plays the role wonderfully as strong and confident, and never overplaying her hand. She stands up for herself when her gender is used against her and valiantly goes above and beyond her duties to prove herself as more capable in the job as her male counterparts. It’s worth discussing the fact that she is over-qualified for her job, that alone is proof she belongs there on her merits alone and should have nothing to prove.
“…brilliantly brings these disparate aspects of Gottfried and embodies them in one consistent performance.”
Suzan Anbeh’s portrayal of Frau Gottfried is also fascinating, as there are so many different sides to the character. She is friendly, if not cordial to everyone. She’s flirtatious when left alone with those with authority, even Frauline Böhmer. Then there are these shifts in her demeanor that makes you question her guilt or innocence. Anbeh brilliantly brings these disparate aspects of Gottfried and embodies them in one consistent performance.
While I don’t know much about filming in Germany or Bremen, as a period piece, the production values are top-notch. The film looks and feels like the 1800s and historically feels authentic. I also love how Flohr employs appropriate forensic science to solve the crime. I should qualify this praise with the fact that the overall movie is shot like a BBC television series versus being shot on grainy film. The sets look a little too clean, and scenes are shot with minimal camera movement. This is not a criticism, but a way to adjust expectations. The acting is also subdued and never over-the-top, which gives off that tone of theater acting.
Udo Flohr’s Effigy – Poison and the City is a fantastic film to watch if you’re a fan of period dramas. The leads give terrific performances, and the setting is visually beautiful for history buffs.
"…valiantly goes above and beyond her duties to prove herself..."