Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Needs and RecriminationsDec 15 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
PUNISH ME (VERFOLGT), aptly photographed in rich black and white, is a deftly made German film that raises as many questions as disturbing thoughts, a film that in every definition is a film noir - and a superb one at that. Writer Susanne Billig and director Angelina Maccarone (note: two very talented women!) have concocted a tale of disparate matching between a 50-year-old woman and a 16-year-old boy, a relationship that builds on sadomasochism as a means of filling voids in each character. The story could easily have become 'sensational' in less sensitive hands, but here, with the sound help of a superb and wholly credible cast, it asks us to examine the extremes to which people will go to feel complete.
Jan Winkler (the gifted and inordinately handsome Kostja Ullmann) is 16 and on probation for petty crimes. He is assigned to parole officer Elsa Seifert (the fine actress Maren Kroymann), a 50-year-old frustrated woman in a marriage that has stagnated. Jan feels a strange attraction to Elsa, an act that at first Elsa rebuffs and discourages but gradually becomes fascinated with the attention and seductive behavior of the young Jan. Committed to helping Jan she manages to talk her husband into employing Jan at his car repair shop the two males strike up a friendship. In a series of subtle episodes Jan suggests his need for 'structuring' to Elsa: what he needs is Elsa to punish him physically, and when Elsa complies she is attracted to the process of sadomasochistic behavior (as the Dominatrix) as well as to the tenderness that always follows their dark sessions. Elsa's husband discovers his wife's relationship with Jan while Jan's friends uncover the secret, and the resulting behavior and recriminations flesh out the surprising ending.
Both Ullmann and Kroymann are outstanding in these difficult roles and manage to maintain our empathy and understanding throughout the story. Both are exceptional actors and both have compelling screen presence. The cinematography allows us to once again remember how powerful black and white film can be. This is a film that some may find difficult to view (sadomasochism, teenage/older woman 'romance'), but the director keeps the story in tight rein and the result is a powerful tale of need and love and the sticky path that often joins the two feelings. Recommended. In German with English subtitles. Grady Harp, December 07
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A thought provoking and sexy movie.Aug. 29 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
I got this movie because I had read on a website run by a submissive man that this movie comes closest to reality, in his experience, and I'm glad that I did. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. The emotion and interaction between the two characters is intriguing, in no small part due to the actors' fine performances.
Jan is a juvenile delinquent who becomes obsessed with his 50 year old probation officer, Elsa, and they get into a sadomasochist relationship, but there is a lot more going on than simply that. Jan knows exactly what he wants even if he might not understand why. And it's not just about pain for him. He is also thrilled by acts of submission and obedience, enthusiastically showering her feet with kisses and clearly taking sensual pleasure in doing whatever she asks when she issues her commands with the right tone.
Jan is just a boy and yet he has a man's confidence about what he needs (or thinks he needs). And he is not afraid of it, any of it. He unapologetically and without hesitation chooses her over friends several times. In their intimate scenes together, he shifts so easily between his regular self and aroused anticipation, going from rolling a cigarette, to wide-eyed and panting, and back again without a hint of embarassment. He buys a collar and leash for himself, wanting to belong to her, and he kisses her with such reverence that perhaps it is not merely an obsession after all.
I found it interesting that the movie hints that no one else seems to recognize this tendency in him, even the judge who has known him for 3 years and Elsa's husband. Jan offers himself only to Elsa, as if he'd been waiting for someone like her to come along and claim him.
Elsa is at first reluctant to deal with him and initially believes that him following her is just him acting up for attention. But interestingly she begins to understand what he wants without him having to actually tell her. By the time of their first "session" he had made suggestive advances but he had not mentioned wanting to be hit. She figured that part out on her own, so he was clearly right about her "wanting to do things to him" or at least having a predilection towards being a dominate woman. The submissive nature of his clues might have gone unrecognized by another woman or been thought of as a joke. She could have assumed that he was playing a cruel game with her but something in Elsa understood him.
I think that the reason why the writers of the movie choose to make the male character a 16 year old boy was that a boy was able to bring beauty and innocence to the relationship. This helped to ensure that the audience wasn't as bogged down by preconceived notions about submissive men or worried about Elsa's safety with a strange man. We get to see the tenderness and understanding behind these types of activities without being distracted by sex and fetish.
The ending of the movie was not quite disappointing but jarring, however we are too used to American movies that tell you everything that happens until they live happily ever after and also generally tell you what to think of everything too. A film like this is not trying to tell you the answers but ask you questions. At the end you are left in a place where you should be asking yourself what you wanted to happen between them. Is this obsession or love? Is it fair to dismiss his desire as confusion due to an unfortunate childhood combined with the sexual exuberance of youth? In the end, he makes a dramatic gesture that reminds her that he is a child but do you really think he will grow out of this? Is Jan's very final act yet another form of submission?
These questions are especially interesting if you know nothing about this lifestyle/desire or if you have feelings against it. You might be surprised by how you feel about Jan and/or Elsa and that's the point of the movie, IMHO.
On a side note, the German title of the movie, Verfolgt, means "hounded" or "pursued" not "punish me." Does the title refer to Jan pursuing Elsa or about Jan's desires hounding him? You decide.
All in all a great movie and I recommend it, if you can open yourself to its questions.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Very well done, interesting exploration of sexualityOct. 23 2007
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I thoroughly enjoyed this German movie. The lead actress, Maren Kroymann, did a great job playing a tricky role. I totally bought this unique, sado-masochistic, sexual relationship between the older woman and the very young man. The sexual dynamic, with the older woman holding all the "power" and the young man as subservient boy toy (and often nude), very much appealed to me. The young German actor, Kostja Ullmann, playing the boy was very, very sexy and beautiful, I remember him from the sweet German gay flick Summer Storm. I truly hope we see more of this sexy young man in other similar flicks.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Very intelligently doneApril 1 2011
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I am a bit reluctant to compare this the brilliant Reflection in a Golden Eye with its powerful cast of fine actors and fine director. But frankly Punish Me is the best film that I have seen exploring sexual repression and compulsion with some respect and compassion since that classic. Actually Punish Me leaves you with more to think about in terms of the complexity of the interactions between the older woman and the boy. While it may seem over the top on the surface, it leaves a lot of important questions about their inner workings in the shadows and open to being pondered. Belle de Jour is certainly provocative and deserves to be called a brilliant exploration of masochism. But it does not focus so much on the psychological dynamics of a sadomasochistic interactions between two persons as does Punish Me.
Any film that does a compelling job of encouraging an intelligent viewer to think about human complexity can be called art.
The artiness of this film is enhanced by the stark black and white photography. Many of the rooms have oddly blank walls if you think about it, which cuts potential distractions and leads you to focus on the characters. I liked the photography a lot. I think the actors and director and photographer did a lot with little drama and attention to nuances of facial expression and body language.
Actually I laughed several times but not because it was at all funny, but because it was very serious in a very German way. So it was like "Yep they might really say it that way!! (I lived there for a year. They can be rather stern, serious, and sometimes what one might call philosophical) The older woman parol officer's conversations with her auto mechanic husband about sex and about her erotic relationship with the 16 year old boy were almost business like, which is not funny at all unless you recognize the cultural style in it. I raise this point not at all to suggest that viewers should try to see humor in the film, but to suggest that the human dimensions and style of presentation and pacing may seem more authentic, to flow more naturally, if you are used to German films. And if you are relaxed about this then it may be easier to try to get into the heads of the boy and his parol officer, which is the most provocative part of the film. Films like the Night Porter just sort of shove sadomasochism into your face and say, there is -- something in human nature. Okay. Films like Cruising are in my opinion mostly exploitive and again more or less shove it into your face and say look people can get sucked in, there it is -- dark temptation. Then of course there is the whole vast genre of horror and slasher, serious killers etc. Not much to think about there. Escapism or whatever. This sort of thing is the bread and butter of the film industry of course. I am not being critical. It is what it is, and for a lot of people just their kind of fun or addiction or whatever. But Punish Me can leave you with a lot of questions about what can be going on in the depths of the human psyche. Well done in that respect for the patient and thoughtful viewer.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
voyeuristic exploration of degradation of young men by old womenDec 18 2007
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The performance by the young actor Kostja Ullman made the movie worth watching, but I really didn't find this rest of the movie worth the effort. This is a intriguing but not compelling movie that is sort of weird in the way some European movies are.. The idea of a sadomasochistic affair between a 50 year old women and a 16 year old boy as beautiful as the actor, Kostja Ullman was unbelievable to me, despite the excellent performances by the main actors. Check out Ullman in the movie, Summer Storm, but skip this movie unless you are into beautiful boys or voyeuristic explorations of degradation of young men by old women or maybe weird European movies.