By: MADDI MCGILLVRAY
Starring Anna Hausburg, David C. Bunners, and Kai Michael Müller
Written and directed by Mathieu Seiler
Grand Hotel Pictures
Written and directed by Swiss-born Mathieu Seiler, True Love Ways is a part-art-house-part-grind-house German exploitation revenge thriller. Shot in minimalistic black and white, True Love Ways is one of those rare gems that might throw even the most veteran horror moviegoers for a loop. The film debuted at the 2016 Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFFF) and was well received amongst audience members. Since then, Synergetic Distribution have released True Love Ways on digital platforms such as Amazon, iTunes, Vimeo, Google Play, Vudu, InDemand, and DirectTV.
The film’s title is a reference to the famous Buddy Holly song, which is featured in the film. It follows the story of a young woman named Séverine (Anna Hausburg) who is disturbed by a recurring dream. Wanting to clear her head, she decides to take a break for a few days away from her boyfriend, Tom (Kai Michael Müller). Unimpressed with Séverine’s decision, Tom makes a deal with a shady businessman referred to as Chef (David C. Bunners) that he meets at a bar. The two conjure up a scheme where Chef and his male associates will kidnap Séverine, to which Tom will come to her rescue. However, Tom doesn’t realize that Chef has different plans of his own. Séverine is then pulled into a brutal game of cat-and-mouse and quickly discovers the extreme violence she is capable of.
Paying homage to the aesthetics of the French New Wave, True Love Ways leaves a real impression. This is first attributed to Oliver Geissler’s high contrast black and white cinematography. Just as stunning is Anna Hausburg as Séverine. One scene that particularly stands out is when she is seen sitting on a park bench observing her surroundings. While she doesn’t speak, her facial expressions and eye movements help to indicate her inner thoughts and that she is clearly aware that something sinister is going on. One cannot help but feel her resemblance to Janet Leigh in these moments and the film’s overall nod to Hitchcock.
In addition to its stylistic appeal, Seiler equally backs his film up with substance. Each scene is constructed with meticulous attention to detail. Seiler also places great emphasis on the development of his characters. The whole first half of the film is a slow voyage through Séverine and Tom’s crumbling relationship. While this eats up quite a bit of screen time, when the action hits, it packs a punch. Not only does the film take a dramatic shift into a rape-revenge narrative, but Séverine also undergoes a transformation when she is forced to witness and perform unthinkable acts of violence.
Unfortunately, the film does resort to some of the all too familiar rape-revenge conventions. However, Seiler makes up for this by presenting an interesting twist on the misogynistic damsel in distress trope. True Love Ways begins with Tom’s controlling sceme because **gasp** Séverine wants some time to herself. However, rather than resorting to the original plan, Séverine becomes her own saviour as she fights for her life. Some of the film’s most memorable moments come from the occasional use of grotesque humour… especially when Séverine comes face to face with Tom after figuring out his plan.
True Love Ways is a reminder of what can be achieved on a shoestring budget and will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on art-house audiences and genre fans alike.