The Movie Waffler Tribeca 2022 Review - WE MIGHT AS WELL BE DEAD | The Movie Waffler

Tribeca 2022 Review - WE MIGHT AS WELL BE DEAD

We Might As Well Be Dead review
The well-maintained order of an exclusive apartment block begins to break down when a dog goes missing.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Natalia Sinelnikova

Starring: Ioana Iacob, Pola Geiger, Jörg Schüttauf, Siir Eloglu, Susanne Wuest, Mina Sadic

We Might As Well Be Dead poster

Apartment complexes have served as microcosms of society in films like David Cronenberg's Shivers, Ben Wheatley's High Rise and Kleber Mendonça Filho's Neighboring Sounds. The latest filmmaker to adopt such a setting is Natalia Sinelnikova, whose directorial debut We Might As Well Be Dead employs an exclusive German apartment complex for an allegory on the rise of fascism.

We Might As Well Be Dead review

Set in a near future where the land is ravaged by some unspoken chaos and referred to as "out there," the movie takes place in one of the last bastions of civilisation, a high rise apartment complex on the outskirts of a forest. The film begins with an absurdist tone not unlike that of the works of Yorgos Lanthimos, as we witness a desperate family arrive at the complex seeking sanctuary. They're initially vetted by the complex's head of security, the stern Anna (Ioana Iacob), who ignores their pleading for a good word to be put in with her superiors.

The more we learn of Anna the more we realise why she's so determined to play by the house rules. As both a foreigner and a Jew, she's all too wary of standing out, and is constantly reminded by her superiors of their good graces in allowing her such a post. Her position in the community is threatened by the behaviour of her daughter Iris (Pola Geiger), who is convinced she has "the evil eye" and can will bad things to happen with her thoughts. Believing she is responsible for the mysterious disappearance of the building caretaker's dog, Iris refuses to leave her bathroom, forcing Anna to bathe in the empty apartments and use her kitchen sink as a makeshift toilet during late night emergencies.

We Might As Well Be Dead review

A self-fulfilling prophecy is invoked when Iris has a vision of a serial killer penetrating the community's fence and massacring a family that lives on the ground floor. Despite dismissing her daughter's words as nonsense, Anna decides to check on the family all the same, and is mistaken for an intruder, leading the community to believe that they really are under threat. The communal paranoia is compounded when the caretaker (Jörg Schüttauf) finds a dead rodent and somehow convinces the other residents it's the corpse of his dog. Despite Anna's pleas for sanity, she finds her position undermined as a golf club wielding vigilante mob is assembled. When the apartment admins force the residents to reapply for tenancies, Anna is forced to take drastic action to ensure her place in the building continues.

If on paper, We Might As Well Be Dead seems like a rather on-the-nose allegory for Germany's past, Sinelnikova ensures it never veers into the after school special territory of something like The Wave. It would be easy to make Anna a one-dimensional victim to hammer home the film's point, but Sinelnikova gives us a protagonist who isn't above victimising those even more vulnerable than herself to ensure the survival of herself and her daughter. We find ourselves not so much rooting for Anna as rooting against the rot setting in around her. Iocab's uptight performance goes against the traditional grain of such stories as Anna refuses to allow any internal cracks to appear. Watching Anna plead with the terrified residents to allow themselves to leave the building and enjoy the outdoors, the movie becomes a clever reversal of the dynamic between Roy Scheider's sheriff and his townspeople in Jaws.

We Might As Well Be Dead review

With a surname like Sinelnikova, the director is no doubt all too familiar with the sort of unease her anti-heroine feels in her position. She's made a remarkably cynical film that suggest Germany's liberal face is but a thin veneer, its citizens waiting for someone to convince them a rodent is a dog to allow their bigotry to rise once again. Made as a graduation film for the Babelsberg Film University, We Might As Well Be Dead may be the most impressive movie made by a college student since John Carpenter's Dark Star. If Sinelnikova can create a world this convincing on a college budget, I eagerly await to see what she might achieve with more traditional filmmaking resources.
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