Actors: Julius Feldmeier, Sascha Alexander Gersak, and Swantje Kohlhof
Synopsis: This year’s most daring entry at the Cannes Film Festival explores the based-on-real-life horrors of a devoutly Christian teenager in Hamburg, Germany led to face unimaginable degradation at the hands of the seemingly nice, normal family that decided to take him in.
As a nerd of horror, a genre that can really push the limits of extremity with its horrific violence and gore, I have found myself desensitized to most visuals and concepts that films can provide. Because of this desensitivity, I have found myself challenging my own personal limits with films that have gained notoriety of stepping well beyond the boundaries of what is acceptable to be put to film. Films like The Human Centipede, Anti-Christ, and the much talked about A Serbian Film have tested my limits like few others have and probably ever will. It’s this odd attraction to the extreme that has led me to Nothing Bad Can Happen (aka Tore Tanzt). With its religious based plot and the buzz, both good and bad, that it received at Cannes this year, this quickly became the film I MUST see at the Philadelphia Film Festival.
The film, unfortunately based on true events, follows young, faith based punk rocker Tore and the horrifying events that led to his demise. After helping a stranded motorist at a rest stop, the motorist later comes to his rescue after witnessing Tore suffer a seizure at a meeting of Tore’s Christian-punk society, Jesus Freaks. Seeing that Tore is living in near homeless conditions, the motorist, Benno, offers up his summer allotment for Tore to stay at and live with his family. Benno almost immediately establishes himself as a heretic and mocks Tore’s faith in Jesus throughout his stay. It is also quickly revealed that Benno has an unnatural affection for his 15 year old step-daughter and decides that Tore is a threat. Although tortured, beaten, and nearly killed by food poisoning, Tore believes that Benno is just a test of his faith from God and continues to go through the horrifying ordeal. Once Tore notices the abuse placed on the daughter, his mission becomes to keep her safe, even though the punishment he is dealt reaches crucifixion like levels.
By the time the film concluded, I had gotten the message very clear but I wish I hadn’t received the mental and emotional abuse it took to get there. As one that isn’t religious in the traditional sense, I find myself gravitating towards films that do question religion. Nothing Bad was a great example of showing that if you believe in something enough you will die for those beliefs. With any religion, I feel that the message gets lost in the big business that is the church. If you have a faith in a higher power, that should be between you and that deity. The most powerful line in the movie comes during the final minutes of the film, where a beaten and battered Tore is asked “where is your god now?” to which he answers “Here” while pointing at his heart. His convictions never waned even in the face of death which is something I can admire. My complaint with the film is that the message almost gets lost in is overuse of gritty, realistic violence. The film isn’t necessarily gory but it’s very unapologetic in its depiction of the terrible events that Tore must suffer through. The climax of violence occurs during a rape scene, that while leaving enough to the imagination, is still so realistic that it caused a few members of the audience, including my wife, to walk out of the theater to take a breather for a few minutes.
A reviewer from Variety stated that the message seems to get muddled, not sharpened, by the overuse of the graphic violence, and I have to agree with that. What I took from the film was that Tore was in essence Jesus for the story. His belief and love for god remained unbroken and he was crucified to save the daughter and brother. I feel that if they spent a little more time on character development of Benno and some of the other supporting characters and spent less time on focusing on the violence, the film would have been just as effective in getting the story across and wouldn’t alienate the audience in the process.
Nothing Bad Can Happen is about as gritty of a film as I have ever seen and absolutely not for the feint at heart. The film has a positive message but you have to suffer a great amount with the lead character to get there. It really comes down to how much you can tolerate in order to see the point of all of it. I’m a few days removed from seeing it and although I was initially mad that I sat through it, my intensity has come down a lot. It is a moving film but only for a certain audience. View with caution.