27th Mar2020

‘System Crasher’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Helena Zengel, Albrecht Schuch, Gabriela Maria Schmeide, Lisa Hagmeister, Melanie Straub, Victoria Trauttmansdorff, Maryam Zaree, Tedros Teclebrhan, Matthias Brenner, Louis von Klipstein, Barbara Philipp, Amelle Schwerk | Written and Directed by Nora Fingscheidt

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Written and directed by German filmmaker, writer and documentary maker Nora Fingscheidt, System Crasher is an intense and brutally honest and poignant drama about a young girl who has, in no uncertain terms, been utterly failed by the foster care system in Germany. It’s a topic of great depth and delicacy and Fingscheidt used soft hands, an open mind and a well-educated thought process to create something that is spellbindingly truthful and realistic, a visceral look at a young life buried in anger, sadness and violence.

I was almost immediately taken aback by just how strong and compelling the 11 year old Helena Zengel (Die Tochter) is in the lead role of Benni. A raw and engaging actress, she captures your attention from the moment she is on screen and keeps hold of it throughout. I’ve heard that she has won awards for her performance here, and having seen her work now… I can’t say I’m at all surprised. The frustration in her face when she encounters certain scenarios, be it an official, a teacher, a student or carer, screams out loud to the harm that has been done to her in the cracked and tormenting system she’s a part of. There’s a strong and ruthless critique here, a statement against the nature of the way things work and the negative aspects that it drenches children with.

This isn’t one of those films that you finish watching and say “well, I enjoyed that, it was fun”, but rather a film that feels important and necessary, a film with so much to say that matters. It’s a difficult watch at times, but rewarding in the same instance. The way Benni’s reactions go from joyous to agitated to absolutely enraged is shown so masterfully by both actor and Fingscheidt. There’s a passion at play here in the story and the way it’s being told, and in the way the filmmaker has drawn out such power from her performers, especially Zengel.

System Crasher is a vibrant and courageous film that used an intelligent script and story to pull back the dirty curtains on a system that is all but broken. It doesn’t pull a trigger against those who work in the system nor throw barbs at these things, but shows, in both complex and simple terms, the life of a child who is struggling. It’s a raw experience that truly should be seen, as much for the message it has to give as well as the energetic and wonderful performances on offer. Zengel is an incredible young actor and she has the world at her toes, I hope she goes on to show even more of what she’s capable of. A special film.

**** 4/5

System Crasher is available today, an exclusive VOD release, via Curzon Home Cinema.

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