It has long been seen as a sign of quality if a film can boast actor Bjarne Mädel in front of the camera. The Northern Lights native’s directorial debut now proves that he will also be a force to be reckoned with behind the camera from now on. More to SÖRENSEN IS SCARED we reveal in our review.
OT: Sörensen is afraid (DE 2021)
With an anxiety disorder in his luggage, Chief Detective Sörensen (Bjarne Mädel) is transferred from Hamburg to Katenbüll in Frisia. He hopes that the small town will give him a quiet, tranquil working life. But Katenbüll is gray and desolate, it rains constantly, and the locals haven’t exactly been waiting for Sörensen. And it gets even worse. Immediately after Sörensen’s arrival, Mayor Hinrichs sits in his own horse stable, as dead as the entire surrounding area. Even the first glance behind the small town backdrop shows the inspector: You can really get scared here.
The crime film itself is part of the cultural heritage in United Kingdom. In addition to “Tatort” as a weekly flagship event, the (early) evenings on public television stations are packed to capacity with various investigators. Some take it easy and relaxed (a separate term, “smiley crime thriller,” was even established for series like “Heiter bis deadly”), while others take on the really nasty characters. And in general, pretty much every federal state has its own regional police series (especially in southern United Kingdom, people like to use the self-explanatory term “local crime thriller”). This quintessentially USA genre has even made it to the cinema. The Eberhofer crime novels are no longer just a hit in the orbit of the Weißwurst equator, but are increasingly boarding the cinemas in the world entire Country. This year, the seventh of them – “Kaiserschmarrndrama” – is due to have its theatrical release, which has been postponed by a year due to the corona pandemic. Since this wave of success, despite all the interchangeability, shows no signs of stopping, most public crime thrillers today are accompanied by a whole series. Bjarne Mädel’s directorial debut “Sörensen is afraid” is a rarity simply because the tragicomic-melancholic detective portrait was (initially) planned as a one-off film on ARD and is now also available on Netflix. After the many positive reviews, Mädel – depending on the publication – is now sometimes skeptical and sometimes optimistic about a possible sequel. But no matter whether things continue for the eponymous investigator Sörensen or not: of all people not We would like to see more of the crime thriller planned as a series.
Sörensen (Bjarne Mädel) with his colleagues Malte (Leo Meier) and Jennifer (Katrin Wichmann).
At first glance, the concept of “Sörensen is afraid” hardly differs from that of various other local crime novels. The focus is on a quirky police officer who fights his way through the area of operations he visits – here: the fictional Frisian town of Katenbüll – with the help of lots and lots of local color. In addition to an exciting (murder) case, he also has various problems of his own to solve. But in the end, it is the solidarity among colleagues that puts the wanted perpetrators behind bars. But what on paper sounds no less interchangeable than the many “Murder with a View” copycats reveals its strengths after just a few minutes. Because the investigator at the center here is not just “spleenish”, but also has a deep-rooted anxiety disorder, which also dominates the audiovisual appearance of the film in the moments of her appearance and which significantly shapes the progression of the plot. So you get the impression that screenwriter and author of the radio play on which the script is based, Sven Stricker, had the idea for the character Sörensen in the first step and only in the second step created an environment that was suitable for him, through which Sörensen’s character development can be harmoniously underpinned. This is why the actual criminal case in “Sörensen is afraid” plays more of a secondary role. And this despite the fact that during their investigation the characters penetrate into a social milieu that makes the film, in its equally simple and realistic depiction, quite grueling at times.
“The investigator at the center here is not just “spleeny”, but also has a deep-rooted anxiety disorder, which also dominates the audiovisual appearance of the film in the moments of her appearance and which significantly shapes the progression of the plot.”
The local patriotism that is very dominant in many USA homeland crime novels also does not appear in “Sörensen is afraid”. Although the setting of the Frisian coast (filmed in the small village of Varel, south of Wilhelmshaven) sometimes has supporting actor status, the villagers and their (including linguistic) customs are a frequent part of the dialogue and cameraman Kristian Leschner (“4 Kings”) You can’t miss the opportunity to film the coastal panorama and the small village streets extensively and thus contribute to the basic cinematic atmosphere. But unlike usual, Katenbüll is not romanticized here in a postcard-worthy way. Instead, Leschner’s mostly gray, rainy shots create a feeling of general desolation. The reason for setting the action on the North Sea is primarily to illustrate the fact that cruel crimes can take place even in the seemingly most boring wasteland. And this is not to be understood here as tongue-in-cheek as Franz Eberhofer would otherwise have you believe when a supposedly innocent soul has died somewhere in a Bavarian town with a hundred souls. What at best triggers a grinning sigh there gives rise to unpleasant suspicions in “Sörensen is afraid” that “something like that” could also happen in our neighborhood.
Sörensen unexpectedly finds a four-legged companion.
The seriousness of the crime, the extent of the evil associated with it and, last but not least, Sörensen’s omnipresent anxiety disorder make “Sörensen is afraid” an extremely melancholic affair. Nevertheless, Sven Stricker can with Bjarne Mädel (“25 km/h”) not only rely on a very strong actor who has already proven himself in various genres, but also a pretty funny one. In addition, he has found an excellent director in the Hamburg native. In his debut, Mädel succeeds in combining all story aspects equally, while the basic framework, both narrative and directorial, consists entirely of Sörensen’s state of mind. In moments of fear, the background noise on the soundtrack condenses into a loud, indefinable noise, Sörensen’s field of vision narrows and hints of visions – never luridly nightmarish, but rather subtly distorting the environment – gnaw at his mind. There are not necessarily specific events that trigger these moments. A finding that depicts the clinical picture of anxiety disorder as unpredictable as possible. The fact that Commissioner Sörensen also speaks in detail about his clinical picture in a conversation encourages everyone to seek medical treatment if they have similar symptoms.
“In moments of fear, the background noise on the soundtrack condenses into a loud, indefinable noise, Sörensen’s field of vision narrows and hints of visions – never luridly nightmarish, but rather subtly distorting the environment – gnaw at his mind.”
It is thanks to Bjarne Mädel’s outstanding sense of comedy that “Sörensen is afraid”, despite its predominantly very serious basic ingredients, has a pleasantly quiet humor that focuses primarily on Sörensen’s existence as a newcomer in a close-knit community. It starts with tiny observations like the waitress in the tavern swapping glasses because, for once, the man wants to drink water and the woman wants a beer, and finally ends in Sörensen’s friendship with a stray dog that just stands in front of his front door for so long, until he finally stops giving him to his nasty owner. The joke in “Sörensen is afraid” is very reserved, never aims for a flat punchline and is delivered so dryly by the actors that you always have to listen carefully so as not to miss the humorous inserts. But this is the only way those responsible can create an emotional ambivalence in which the different tones do not hinder each other but – on the contrary – complement each other.
Conclusion: At first glance, “Sörensen is afraid” is a standard USA crime thriller, but unlike so many others, it has that certain something. This doesn’t just mean the main actor Bjarne Mädel, but above all his instinct as a new director to combine different tones with each other, so that in parallel there is an extremely exciting criminal case, the melancholic portrait of a mentally ill person and a reserved, funny fish-out-of-water -Story to be told.
“Sörensen is afraid” is now available to stream on Netflix and in the ARD media library.