TLA Releasing // 2005 // 87 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // February 26th, 2007
"You're really a disaster."
Don't you love it when you mom tells you you're a disaster? I guess if you've made it to that point, you probably couldn't care less if you mother noticed. That's the problem with Armin Steeb (Constantin von Jascheroff, a young, hot, and rising star in Europe): He's a mess. Actually, there are better adjectives for him, but I'll pull those up later.
Armin has just graduated from school and is trying to find his first real job. As his parents are pressuring him to get a good one -- actually any job -- he's having trouble staying focused. He's dazed and dreamy, not quite happy with his life and his surroundings. He exudes this blasé attitude to everyone at all times, which isn't what a parent or a potential employer wants to see. With his life so dull yet intense, he begins to fantasize. His fantasies are dark and dangerous, often placing him in provocative sexual situations. Then one day he decides to up the ante and writes an anonymous letter to a newspaper claiming responsibility for a recent car wreck. He didn't have anything to do with it, but he saw the aftermath while walking home and it has affected him since. Armin is losing touch with reality, and his fantasies and pleas of guilt continue to consume him.
I Am Guilty blurs the lines between a young man's reality and fantasies. Where does it all begin and end? As the film progresses, you aren't sure if his fantasies are just that. Maybe they're real. That's the trick to this film: it's vagueness regarding Armin and his dual nature. Does he have a dual nature, or is this all really in his mind? Perhaps he is having dangerous sexual liaisons with leather-clad motorcyclists in public toilets, or, more importantly, maybe he does have something to do with that car crash. The movie waffles between both sides, never giving you enough information to make a definite determination; yet the movie is replete with clues suggesting that innocent-looking Armin is twisted and sick. The ambiguity unfolds well.
What makes this work is von Jascheroff as Armin. He makes the boy a walking thesaurus; Armin can be described as lonely, estranged, angry, confused, lost, scared, disaffected, and detached. They're variations on an idea, and Armin experiences all of them. I applaud von Jascheroff for giving a textured performance that revealed subtleties of his character. This performance drives the film, keeping you focused to see just what will happen to Armin next. Without such an excellent performance, I Am Guilty wouldn't be half the riveting story it is.
The original German title of I Am Guilty is Falscher Bekenner. The real translation is on the front page of a newspaper Armin's father is reading, while the subtitle translated it to "False Confessor." False Confessor is a better title for this film than what we have now. False Confessor isn't as definitive as I Am Guilty; the former allows you to enjoy the movie in the gray areas that it dwells. Stating "I am guilty" takes away some of the mystery because you should not be certain if Armin is guilty or not.
Falscher Bekenner comes with a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer that is average fare, with decent colors and adequate detail and contrast. The colors could have been richer and sharper, and the blacks are sorely weak with many night shots just a muddle of darkness. You will also find a few instances of overt grain and aliasing. Audio is a Dolby Digital 2.0 German track (so you have to read the subtitles) that has clear and hiss-free dialogue. A few bonus items are included, but they aren't much. First is a text-based (one page) director's statement about the movie. It's as wishy-washy vague as the film. Next is a photo gallery. Last are trailers for I Am Guilty, Feed (which looks quite good), and Next Door. Of note is that the running time of this DVD is 87 minutes. Other sites list the running time as 94 minutes, so it looks like we've lost something in the export.
Falscher Bekenner is a dark and murky tale of a lost young man. Does his boredom push him from his fantasies to a dangerous reality, or is it all in his head? What Armin did or didn't do is a big question; the viewer is rewarded with a mysterious and challenging film. I give this film a solid rental recommendation. If you like mind games, you will like this film.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: TLA Releasing
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (German)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Director's Statement
* Photo Gallery