Human Factors opens with a sinister tour through the empty Belgian vacation home of the German family who are about to arrive for a weekend stay. Their plans for a relaxed getaway are thwarted when Nina (Sabine Timoteo) suspects a break-in and the entire household is put on high alert.

The events that unfold are neither depicted in chronological order nor from an impartial perspective. The occurrences of that fateful weekend are repeated from changing points of view and as they are linked together, the individual parts of the story form a mosaic of personal truths. What prima facie appears to be an eerie thriller is in fact a family drama merely disguised as such.

As each of the four protagonists has their own arc, there is a certain divergence in characterisation along with the changing viewpoint. This presumably presented some challenges to the actors, especially in combination with the fact that much of the dialogue is both German and French.

The unconventional approach to the narrative is clearly what distinguishes Ronny Trocker’s second feature film. Human Factors is speckled with misleading clues like Jan’s upcoming controversial collaboration with a political party and the radio news report of a terror alert that turned out to be an abhorrent case of racial profiling. Several secondary characters make subtle comments about migration in the Belgian coastal town. This elaborate orchestration intentionally raises the audience’s expectations and the resolution is disappointing by comparison.

Of course, there is a chance that this too is part of Trocker’s master plan: perhaps by setting the audience up to fail and holding up a mirror to their insatiable thirst for blood, he seeks to make a statement about the human condition. But maybe this is just a desperate attempt to seek deeper meaning in an average film.

★★★☆☆

Selina Sondermann

Human Factors (Der menschliche Faktor) does not have a UK release date set.

For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.

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