In his survival drama STYX Director Wolfgang Fischer confronts a serene main character with dramatic reality. The result is impressive and shocking at the same time. We reveal more about this in our review.
The Plot Summary
Rike (Susanne Wolff) goes about her everyday life as an emergency doctor in Cologne before she starts her vacation in Gibraltar. There she sets out to sea alone in her sailboat. The destination of their trip is the Atlantic island of Ascension Island. Her vacation is abruptly ended when, after a storm on the high seas, she finds herself in the immediate vicinity of an overloaded, wrecked fishing boat. Several dozen people are in danger of drowning. Rike initially follows the usual rescue chain and requests support via radio. When her requests for help remain unanswered, time is of the essence and rescue by a third party turns out to be unlikely, Rike is forced to act.
Movie explanation of the ending
After “Ahead of Us the Sea” and “The Color of the Horizon,” the USA survival drama “Styx” is the third director’s work this year to focus on the sometimes highly dramatic adventures of a manageable number of people in the cramped space of a ship; with all the physical and psychological drama that comes with such an undertaking. But in contrast to the examples mentioned, the story surrounding the tough sailor Rieke (Susanne Wolff) is fictional and could hardly be more closely linked to the events of today’s world. Director and screenwriter Wolfgang Fischer (“What you can not see”) links the meticulously planned course of such a one-woman trip with the topic of war refugees, which has dominated the media for months, by confronting Rieke with a refugee boat floating helplessly in the sea after around half the running time. The question that inevitably arises here is “What would I do?” And as long as Fischer maintains his sober, observational position, answering this question is the most difficult. Shortly before the end, “Styx” becomes emotional and clears up all previously admitted doubts and open questions. This doesn’t quite fit in with the rest, but it still clearly illustrates where the problems currently lie in our society when it comes to helping others.
Gedion Oduor Wekesa embodies Kingsley with impressive intensity.
The trained psychologist Wolfgang Fischer opens his film in a similarly dry manner as he describes what happens on the boat later on. First from a bird’s eye view and finally moving closer and closer to the scene of the accident, he portrays the main character and emergency doctor Rieke during one of her missions when she rescues a seriously injured person from an almost completely destroyed car wreck and treats her on site with remarkable level-headedness. This calmness with which Susanne Wolff (“Return to Montauk”) Her Rieke embodies is important for the further course of the film; Last but not least, it makes a decisive contribution to the fact that “Styx” shows us first-hand how much the refugee catastrophe and its consequences concern or have to be addressed by all those who at first glance (and not necessarily at their own request) seem very far away from it. Of course, this is also manipulative in a certain way, true to the motto: Anyone who has only once experienced the torment and fear of death that war refugees fleeing across the sea are exposed to can still be so calm. These fates will not leave him indifferent either. So the message is clear. But at the same time you have to give Fischer credit for the fact that there are topics that don’t require any subtlety in order to describe something as it is.
But Wolfgang Fischer is aware that he creates far more interest in his characters when he doesn’t just rely on overly simple platitudes. Rieke sometimes seems like the embodiment of the West that promises help, while Kingsley, played by acting debutant Gedion Oduor Wekesa, represents all those refugees whose last resort is the escape route across the sea, which is fatal for many. But in many small moments Fischer places points of friction in his story that make “Styx” really exciting and add a controversial spice to the story here and there. Kingsley is initially not just the grateful rescued person who shows Rieke the appropriate gratitude (although this raises the question of the extent to which gratitude is appropriate, given that what Rieke does should actually be a matter of course). Instead, he expects her to return and save his family and the other refugees from the leaky boat. This goes as far as physical altercations in which Kingsley even threatens to completely lose the audience’s sympathy at times. But Fischer plays with it and in all these scenes subliminally asks the question of the cause of all the suffering, which means that in every single moment the perspectives on something like victim, perpetrator, rescuer and the rescued are shifted and questioned anew.
Susanne Wolff plays the main role of Rike in “Styx”.
Due to the direct confrontation with the statement that the refugee boat that is threatening to sink will not be saved by the navy, “Styx” is first and foremost a very political film. But even beyond that, director Wolfgang Fischer manages to stage a classic adventure that brings you closer to simple things like working on a ship or contact with sea rescue in an unspectacular and therefore authentic way. This impression is reinforced by an excellent technical presentation. It’s less the routine camera work of Benedict Neuenfels (“Patient Zero”), who knows how to optimally showcase the narrowness of the boat and occasionally captures intoxicating panoramas of the wide sea. Above all, it is the spectacular sound design by the team around Adrian Baumeister (“The most beautiful girl in the world”), which gradually captivates you. How the film manages to capture the sounds of the water in as many ways as possible, giving the impression that you are either in the middle of the ocean or on a ship, is extremely impressive and definitely justifies a visit to the cinema. Ultimately, this applies to the entire film anyway, which, in its simple story around a supposedly clearly defined conflict, opens a much larger barrel than one would initially think. And in between, Susanne Wolff and Gedion Oduor Wekesa play their two roles in an impressively distant way that only gradually opens up to the viewer. Even those who never raise the question of whether doomed refugees can be rescued from the sea or not will leave “Styx” further strengthened in their opinion.
Conclusion: Using a fictitious individual fate, Wolfgang Fischer cleverly raises more questions about refugee policy than have been discussed in all the talk shows in this country in the past two years. “Styx” is also technically brilliant.
“Styx” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from September 13th.