2021 Sundance Review: Human Factors

2021 Sundance Review: Human Factors

Director(s): Ronny Trocker

Writer(s): Ronny Trocker

Cast: Mark Waschke, Hassan Akkouch, Marthe Schneider, Sabine Timoteo

Synopsis: A mysterious home invasion triggers off a shake in the core of a cosmopolitan middle-class family and unveils the fragility of truth and the power of individual perspective.

This film begins with a gorgeous long take sequence of the family setting up in their vacation home. This scene holds us at the moment and gives us a look at every family member before the invasion. While the sequence may not provide much detail, it gives a teaser for the incredible camera work from Klemens Hufnagl. Told through the different perspectives of each family member, the film begins to unwind in a thrilling and spellbinding experience. It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, without knowing what the final picture will be.

And this puzzle shifts and alters with each sweeping perspective we are given of the family, but the overall picture leaves much to be desired. There is so much to unfold in this form and the concept is enticing, but the execution of the film falls flat, even though the structure really works. It’s a rare incident where I feel if different perspectives and stories were changed around, this would be an incredible film. What really hurt the execution of the film was the choppy editing of different timelines. We are taken back and forth periodically surrounding the different perspectives of the invasion leading up to, and following the invasion itself. Once I started to catch on to the breadcrumbs Trocker was leaving to show the differences in time, I began to understand where we were, but even then it frankly didn’t work as well as I had hoped. There is so much to like about this film, but the one thing holding itself back was a simple restructuring of the events happening.

Just like the family in this film, this film was its own worst enemy. With that being the case, however, something about it still intrigued me throughout. The one aspect of the film that works so well is by starting off with the invasion. By starting with the invasion Trocker was able to create this atmosphere of questioning what was going on, and what could happen. After some of the instances we had seen earlier, I truly felt that at any particular moment something could happen. I never felt that the family was ever safe from itself or the outside world. I think Trocker could use some fine-tuning as a writer, but when it comes to directing he is able to create such a brilliant and thrilling atmosphere that kept me engaged even when I didn’t know what was going on.

Like I said, this film is a puzzle, and while the outcome may not paint the prettiest picture, the pieces all fit together. Each piece of this puzzle was structured well, and each actor in this film brought a really strong performance when it was their time to shine. Sabine Timoteo was the standout for me as she brought a certain level of calmness and grace as the mom Nina, but she also had this strength about her that was played off so well. She was compassionate to every situation but was steadfast in herself knowing her worth.

The (what I thought was a surprise) final perspective of the film was a remarkable one and really did its best to try to tie the film together. That is what pains me about this film as a whole is how intriguing the general concept is. It really brought me into this world and I wanted to try to figure it out, but I just couldn’t. While the ending of this film, I believe, had so much it was trying to say, it just didn’t know how to say it. Questions like, was there even an invasion, was it all made up, and is the family the enemy, were all brought up and answered in a brushed over sort of way, that could have really benefited from more expansion. It just feels like there was a gap in what the Trocker wanted out of the script and what the final product came to be. The final shot was one that I felt really should have affected me, and we got a glimpse earlier on into what the final shot meant, but I believe this is one of the rare cases that more exposition would have benefited for the overall impact of the movie.

Courtesy of Brigade Marketing

Final: Human Factors is a thrilling experience, with great camera work, and good acting, but inconsistencies in the different perspectives and confusion among the overall meaning leave much to be desired. The structure is almost flawless and works from almost every standpoint, but the execution fails. That being said, there is still something about this film that I found highly interesting, and it is a movie that I might revisit later in the year.

My Score: C+

2021 Sundance Coverage

2021 Film Rankings

Jacob is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association and specializes in the awards season. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Klemens Hufnagl

2 thoughts on “2021 Sundance Review: Human Factors

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