With Nora Fingscheidt’s drama System Crasher (de. Systemsprenger) German is competing for the Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category this year. And for a long time now you’ve had the feeling that your chances of winning aren’t that bad. We reveal why in our review.
Will anti-violence trainer Micha (Albrecht Schuch) get along with Benni?
The plot summary
Foster family, residential group, special school: no matter where Benni goes, she is immediately thrown out. The wild nine-year-old is what the youth welfare office calls a “system buster”. Benni (Helena Zengel) actually only wants one thing: love, security and living with mom again! But Bianca (Lisa Hagmeister) is afraid of her unpredictable daughter. When there seems to be no more room for Benni and no solution is in sight, the anti-violence trainer Micha (Albrecht Schuch) tries to free her from the spiral of anger and aggression.
System Crasher Movie Meaning & ending
In order to reveal the central conflict in Nora Fingscheidt’s powerful drama “System Crasher”, one cannot avoid first explaining the title terminology in more detail. In civil service terms, a system buster is defined as a child who is so difficult to educate that he breaks the system of educational homes, carers and other institutions, meaning that he cannot be helped despite being moved from one institution to another. There is a very good reason why the drama about the impulsive little girl Benni is called “System Crasher” and does not have her name (let alone any title that would only stir up false sentimentality). Of course, Nora Fingscheidt’s film is also about Benni himself. But above all, she accuses the very system that, in addition to the tragic background story of the little blonde devil, is also partly to blame for this misery. When Benni (who is actually called Bernadette, but finds this name uncool) one day threatens to attack her carers with a knife or even beats a little boy into a coma – to name just two of the various speechless scenarios that “system busters” present to his audience presented here – then you don’t even have the idea of wanting to hug the little girl protectively, but are primarily as helpless and angry as Benni himself. A courageous narrative step, the consequence of which pays off right up until the end credits .
Even Benni’s mother Bianca (Lisa Hagmeister) is afraid of her daughter (Helena Zengel).
Especially in the initial phase of “System Crasher” there would have been a risk that Nora Fingscheidt would present her story under the banner of false sentimentality. When she shows her first freak out after just a few minutes, during which the actually delicate blonde boy starts lashing out like a fury and smashes plastic toy cars against windows, only to go stealing and insulting through the streets of her neighborhood in the next scene, then Thoughts of formats like “The Super Nanny” and the like quickly come to mind. Perhaps the private broadcaster RTL would have illustrated a case like Benni’s in a similar way. And Katja Saalfrank, who was already controversial at the time, would have appealed to the parents’ assertiveness and strictness, because you just have to show a child like Benni boundaries so that she no longer shows this disrespectful behavior towards those around her. The fact that Benni is not just a petulant nine-year-old, but that her problems are of a much greater caliber, is not only apparent in the knife scene in question. The spectacular new discovery Helena Zengel, whose next project, a western alongside Tom Hanks, has already been decided, puts such force into her physical outbursts and also provides the calm, emotional moments with such complexity that you know exactly: Here it is Traditional educational measures are no longer possible. This girl has such severe scars on her soul that healing requires much more than the usual therapy skills.
“The spectacular new discovery Helena Zengel puts such force into her physical outbursts and also provides the calm, emotional moments with such complexity that you know exactly: classic educational measures are no longer sufficient here.”
But Nora Fingscheidt doesn’t make the mistake of “just” making Benni a pitiful victim of the circumstances. Although she classifies the origin of Benni’s problems very precisely, she pinpoints the violence-ridden family environment, which is both uninterested in her own daughter and completely overwhelmed by her, as the clear trigger for Benni’s problems. At the same time, the causes and consequences continually reinforce each other. While the protagonist is seriously violent, those around her just watch – and vice versa. And it is at this point that the system finally begins to fail. Because this sees children like Benni as just one of many. There are almost no individual measures, also because they would simply not be feasible in terms of effort, costs and personnel requirements. Instead, the girl first comes from the family to a home and occasionally visits hospitals, but what Benni actually needs – a permanent, stable caregiver – is not included in this collection of therapeutic approaches. And so successes that appear every now and then are continuously nipped in the bud; not least because Benni not only has an unpredictable temperament in the truest sense of the word, but because she also carries countless traumas with her that do not require mere educational therapy, but rather healing.
In order to show both the dimensions and the path of devastation that Benni leaves behind as a system buster, Fingscheidt, who is also responsible for the script, uses as many different scenarios as possible. Some of these are repetitive; For example, when Bennie has to be immobilized in the hospital several times over the course of the story, or when it becomes clear during the short trips to group homes that there is no prospect of healing even in this rather impersonal environment. Then again, Fingscheidt devotes himself to more unusual methods. A multi-day trip to a lonely forest hut, together with an anti-violence trainer (strong: Albrecht Schuch), for example. Ideas such as a stay in Africa are also discussed from time to time and perfectly sum up the desperation of everyone involved. This also applies to the production itself. “” not only breaks away pleasantly from common narrative dramaturgies in terms of narrative, which also makes the film appear just as unpredictable as its protagonist. Cinematographer Yunus Roy Imer (“Behind the Blizzard”) ensures a documentary look – blurry, rough and yet always clear. Composer John Gürtler (“Dog Soldiers”) Benni’s emotional outbursts on the soundtrack are sometimes a little too clear – as if it wasn’t enough to let all the little girl’s anger and desperation speak for itself.
System Crasher pleasantly breaks away from common narrative dramaturgies, which makes the film appear just as unpredictable as its protagonist.”
But since the film remains acoustically inconspicuous in the quiet moments – of which there are significantly more than the much-quoted escalation scenes – it’s actually almost fitting to simply overwhelm the viewer with everything you can at the right moment as a filmmaker has at his disposal at that moment. This girl will be remembered for a long time!
Conclusion: At the end of “System Crasher” you are pretty exhausted, because the performance that newcomer Helena Zengel, who was ten years old at the time of filming, delivers here can really be felt by the viewer. The fact that the actual core of the story is not neglected in such a strong performance is thanks to the excellent writing and directing performance of Nora Fingscheidt, who should have a good chance of winning the Oscar with her film.
System Crasher can be seen in USA cinemas from September 19th.