System Crasher is an emotional rollercoaster that doesn’t so much pull you in, but yanks and throws you full force into the turbulent world of child social care and mental health in Germany. The writer/director Nora Fingsceidt manages to present a highly charged and emotional film without patronising or preaching. This is where the power lies, the audience is constantly having to reassess how it feels as the action unfolds.
System Crasher tells the story of nine year old girl, Benni in care. The term system crasher is given to children who quite literally crash the care system as it cannot meet their needs and no children’s home will take them. Benni (a tour de force and explosive performance from the nine year old Helena Zengel) who is the troubled child that the German social care system just can’t seem to help. All she wants to do is go home to her mother, the latter who is scared of her own child’s violent outbursts. No children’s home wants her despite the best efforts of her social worker, Mrs Bafane, that is until Michael Heller arrives a well meaning individual who is her school escort.
The power of System Crasher lies in a script, from which it is clear has been carefully researched and worked on over time. It doesn’t seek to explain every little detail but treats the audience as intelligent. As we watch, we’re complicit in how Benni is treated, we feel her rage and yet come to understand the frustrations of some of the social workers who say this is a child that cannot be saved. The direction too never feels too overbearing and the supporting cast is all top notch. At times, you forget it is the film and actually feel as if you are present experiencing it. It is the enduring idea of hope that is constantly thread throughout the film, maybe this time Benni will be saved. When Michael takes her to the words, our hopes are lifted until it is clear that patience and kind words aren’t enough for a child as troubled as Benni. System Crasher poses lots of questions but leaves the audience to come to their own conclusions: is it soft words or decisive action that is needed for children such as Benni?
This visceral film will stay with you for days and is a reminder of what great films are: conversation starters on important subjects to be discussed, mulled over, recommended to everyone you know. This is the perfect viewing during this period of self isolation.
System Crasher is on exclusive VOD release with Curzon Home Cinema today, Friday 27 March. There is a special screening and Q& A with the writer and director Nora Fingsceidt tonight at 9 pm online, details here.