This film took 12 years to make…I was hoping that for my review it wouldn’t take as long! But here we are two years later from when Ingenium premiered at the Manifesto Film Festival in Amsterdam, 2018. In hindsight, this is what I think was meant to be so I could comment on the re-watchability and longevity of this piece. When choosing a film to program, so many factors come to play namely the theme of the year, and the compatibility of filmmakers with our festival philosophy. The cast and crew of Ingenium were family right from the start. The passion and care they took in crafting Ingenium is identical to what we do here at Zeitgeist.
As a smaller festival, it is so thrilling when we get high budget genre features submitted to us. “Hollywood” style has become a dirty word in festival circuits; however, I find the popular culture aspect, entertainment value and potential to reach global audiences significant qualities in “Hollywood” style films. At our festival (now Zeitgeist Festival) we take into consideration how the film comments on the era in which it is produced as a significant factor in creating meaning.
Ingenium is not only like a “Dan Brown” novel concerning its frenetic pace and countdown-against- the clock urgency; its cityscapes play roles as characters themselves with cinematographic wide shots in Thailand and Berlin punctuating every scene. The shots of the cupola of the Berlin dome obviously were meticulously planned and storyboarded to get the sweeping “point of view” conventions audiences crave in their action thrillers. But while having a high entertainment value, Director Steffen Hacker calls attention to the over medication of mental illnesses modern society believes to be solutions and to how fabricated society can lead one to doubt the salience of their own consciousness.
Like Sibylle (Like a Cast Shadow) that we screened in our inaugural year, I found German film at this point in time to be heavy in atmosphere and crafted to match the protagonists’ own psychology, (much like German film was known for during the Weimar Republic). This is the reason I was especially interested in Ingenium. A cycle of films I was (and still am) researching refers to “reality” not quite being an objective “agreed” upon entity. Films like The Matrix and Divergent suggest that “None of this is Real”. Could reality be constructed (by either the individual or society) and perception of which all be relative? If so, then how we define mental health needs reconfiguring as Ingenium suggests. One hour in, a lead character confirms my theory: “All this is not real.” And Ingenium takes on the feel of the paranoia conspiracy thrillers of New Hollywood Cinema like The Parallax View and The Stepford Wives. By the end of the film we still do not know exactly what the “Ingenium Corporation” is and what they did to these girls, and how and why they can jump through time at will…but like the films during the New Hollywood Cinema cycle, it leaves your imagination to fill in the blanks based on the likelihood of the context given both on screen and in the political society we live in off screen.
Here it is worth mentioning Esther Maaß’s great performance as Felicitas and the obvious chemistry she has with director, Steffen Hacker. A wonderful moment atop the Berlin Dome reminds one of the iconic Superman III car- junkyard scene. What would you say to the you of a different time space continuum if they were to converge upon each other? How would you avoid a paradox? Maaß’s portrayal is completely believable as the Felicitas’s consciousnesses operate and converse from different time line perspectives in relation to the plot. I have often fantasized about how it would go down if I were to speak with the “me” of yesterday or tomorrow.
So it is noticeable the plot of this high concept film is not outlined. This is intentional as it would be fairly impossible to do such without spoilers and having now achieved distribution, hopefully people can experience Ingenium without having to attend a festival! Although (to be biased) it is much more fun to meet and greet after with this amazing cast and crew who are not only highly skilled at filmmaking, but know how to relish and participate in the true spirit of connecting through camaraderie at festivals! Every time we see on social media another festival Ingenium screens at, we are beyond delighted and like a proud parent take pleasure in knowing we had the premiere. We knew it was a great film and are not surprised in the slightest at all the success Hacker et al. have had since that chilly day with us in Amsterdam back in 2018!