This is going to be a hard review to write, since a) I’m an advocate for Austrian cinema, b) I commend the filmmakers for dealing with this difficult story (“Einer von uns” is based on true events taking place in Lower Austria, where an unarmed teenager was shot dead by a cop during a nightly break-in), and c) the thundering round of applause after the screening (which was the Austrian premiere, so there’s a tiny chance that this influenced the reaction of the crowd) suggests that I’m alone in – and wrong about? – this. However, it is my sad duty to inform you that from my point of view, “Einer von uns” was a rather hollow and pointless affair.
Before we go on, let me point out – in the interest of full disclosure – that right behind me was the row with the invited guests (participants and their friends and family), with a couple of young actors and their friends, who behaved rather badly and disrespectfully, talking loudly, laughing all the time, and thus pretty much ruining the mood. If I was the filmmaker, I’d be furious at them, but as a simple guest, I felt it wasn’t my place to complain. Anyway, I can’t rule out the possibility that this had an influence on my opinion of the movie. However, since those are mostly due to the content of the movie, I don’t think that my opinion of it would have been substantially higher with a quieter crowd. My first big problem with “Einer von uns” was that as much emphasis they put on the teenagers, they never really managed to make me sympathize with them. On the contrary, I found most of them – with their gangster-posturing, their running after the alpha-male, and their use of words like “gay” and “victim” as insults – rather insufferable. Maybe that makes me a Walt Kowalski-like grumpy old dude sitting on his porch at the tender (?) age of 35, but while watching the movie, I really thought that if this is representative of Austria’s youth, then we’re fucked. And no, all that doesn’t mean that “they had it coming”, or that I didn’t feel for them during the finale. But the fact that I never felt a connection to them definitely hurt the first hour of the movie, and made it rather arduous for me.
My main beef with the movie, however, is that in my opinion, it put far too much emphasis on the teenagers, and far too little on the cop(s). Thus, it approached this tragedy mostly from one – and IMHO the far less interesting – perspective. I mean, come on: That teenagers sometimes do stupid things for stupid reasons is hardly revelatory. What I would have been interested in was: Why did the cop shoot Julian? And unfortunately, “Einer von uns” does next to nothing to deal with this question. For a moment, they flirt with the idea of a climate of anxiety, which is also partially fed by the media, but even that ended up being such a 2-second-sidenote that I’m not even sure if that was intentional, or if I’m just reading too much into it. Now, mind you, I was not looking for a movie that tries to exonerate the cop. Shooting this kid – and while he was running away from him, at that – was wrong, and a use of excessive force. But as unwarranted as it may have been, it nevertheless didn’t happen without a reason. Maybe he was afraid. Maybe he was fed up. Maybe he simply misjudged the situation. Maybe he thought he was trying to attack his colleague. Maybe he was tired. And maybe he simply panicked. I’m not saying that it has to be a reasonable, understandable and/or good reason – let alone a good enough reason to excuse what he did. I’m only saying that there IS a reason. And to my mind, “Einer von uns” did next to nothing to go into that. Thus, it left me with a lot of questions, but no answers. And while that’s a valid approach to a movie, it also means that ultimately, “Einer von uns” simply left me with the same questions that I already asked myself when the news of this tragedy hit back then. Which made it feel incredibly pointless to me.
Don’t get me wrong: It’s well written, well shot, well acted, and offers a couple of hard-hitting scenes. But ultimately, for me it didn’t add anything to the news story it’s based on – which is a crying shame.