Human Factors review – tense and unnerving break-in drama | Movies


There’s an intriguing touch of Michael Haneke about this refrigerated drama from Ronny Trocker, which begins with a family walking in on burglars at their holiday home. Nothing is stolen, no one is injured; no harm done. But the intrusion disrupts their comfortable lives in ways that are hard to explain: it yanks away the blanket of privilege that keeps them warm and at ease in the world.

Human Factors is a film that gets by on intelligent performances and an unnerving, tense mood. Sabine Timoteo is brilliant as Nina, the owner of an advertising agency in Germany with her husband, Jan (Mark Waschke). They have their offices in a converted warehouse, staffed by ambitious-looking millennials. Nina is the creative brains, while workaholic Jan deals with the clients. On the sly, he has agreed to run the election campaign of a controversial populist political party, which looks set to run on an anti-immigration agenda. Nina is enraged by his dishonesty and betrayal: they’ve always vowed not to touch politics.

It is Nina who is the main witness to the break-in. The couple have come away for the weekend with their two kids: sulky teenager Emma (Jule Hermann) and younger child Max (Wanja Valentin Kube). As they arrive, a door bangs upstairs and masked men thunder down the stairs into the garden. Could the incident have been staged by activists, some kind of protest against their new client?

The film replays the moment of the intrusion from the perspective of each member of the family, jumping backwards and forwards in time, and the camera sticking with the character whose point of view we’re following. So it becomes like a puzzle to solve, though as time went on I wondered about the solution and if perhaps, after all, this is a film slightly lacking in ideas. The suggestion that it’s convenient to blame our problems on outsiders – personally and nationally – is interesting but doesn’t really go anywhere.

Human Factors is available on 17 February on Mubi.

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