Rammbock: Berlin Undead Review
Written by: DeadByDawn
I feel I should preface my review of Rammbock: Berlin Undead (Marvin Kren, 2010) with a confession: I have developed a very grumpy attitude toward zombie movies. When 28 Days Later came out, I loved it; When the Dawn of the Dead remake came out, I felt a little betrayed and angry, but I actually really enjoyed it; Diary of the Dead? Sure! But years later, after sitting through thousands of reels (can I even apply that word to movies any more?) of angry, stupid or angry and stupid people walking — or running — around with milky eyes and bloody mouths, well, I’ve become picky. In short, I need a catch. A zombie flick can’t just be funny, it can’t just have great gore — it has to have something at least a little different to earn my respect. And I think Rammbock has just that.
But I didn’t come to this conclusion until I had sat through all one hundred and one minutes of the film. Right to the end. Right to the final lyrics of the song that ran through the credits.
Rammbock contains many of the classic zombie flick tropes, and for the first half of the film, it is unclear whether these will lead to anything new. On top of this, the protagonist, Michael (aka “Michi”), a weasely-looking man who travels from Vienna to Berlin with the hopes on winning his ex girlfriend, Gabi, back by returning her apartment keys in person, is, well, to put it frankly, kind of a douche. Not only do we not care if Gabi takes him back, we can’t really blame her for leaving Michael in the first place. But with great lameness comes great possibility for character growth…
Rammbock — at just over one hour long — wastes no time getting to the good stuff. Shortly after Michael arrives at Gabi’s apartment, all zombie hell breaks loose. Similarly to 28 Days Later, the zombies are “infected” with a virus that makes them rage against anyone they come across. The nature of the virus, though, is slightly different: There is hope for the infected if they can remain calm. Stress activates the virus. If the infected can remain calm long enough, theoretically, the body can fight off the virus.
The nature of the virus, which feeds on emotion, is perhaps the first sign of what makes Rammbock different. The song that runs during the film’s final credits ends with the lines, “Your heart is the bird cage, so see that you care, or you’ll find no peace and no rest anywhere” — hinting, perhaps, that the UK title of the film, Siege of the Dead, is more fitting than Berlin Undead. It is not just the inhabitants of the apartment block in which the film takes place who are under siege, but humanity itself, held hostage by its own emotions, which — as we well know — can get a little spoiled-bratty-kid-in-a-toy-store at times.
Rammbock emerges from the rotting heap of carbon-copy zombie films as something new: a mediation on the nature of human emotion and the importance of being able to “keep calm and carry on” (as the popular saying, whose origins remain completely obscure to me, goes). Anger, jealousy and fear literally are the death of people in Rammbock. Good feelings, or even simply the lack of any feelings at all I suppose (I realize this sort of negates my reading of the film ), have the power to set people free.
Technically speaking, Rammbock is easy enough on the eyes. The hand-held cinematography style is reminiscent of a Lars von Trier film at times, as is the classical music score which is used sparingly — and to great effect — at key points in the film. The editing draws parallels between certain characters that add meaning to the plot. No cut feels frivolous. And the acting is good enough that I didn’t feel annoyed or embarrassed for the actors at any point in the film.
I guess I could go on and on about Rammbock, but I won’t, because really, who likes long (not to mention positive) reviews of films? So I’ll end it with this thought: Zombie movies generally reflect on humanity’s inhumanity. The disgusting, violent drones inhabiting most zombie flicks are — as Shaun of the Dead so aptly suggests — often indiscernible from “regular” folk. Rammbock hints at this as well, but provides its audience with a modicum of hope that is generally foreign to the zombie subgenre: We may already harbour the seed of our own destruction, but the situation is not completely hopeless. By taking responsibility for our emotions and impulses, the future might still be within our control.