The Robber (4 stars)

The Robber

Benjamin Heisenberg's minimalist crime thriller is a thought-provoking as well as a technically impressive piece of work

Filmhouse’s distribution arm continues to snap up what the UK’s mainstream film companies have left on the shelf, with a long overdue release for this Austrian thriller. Is thriller the right word? Certainly the material – based on a true story, via a novel by Martin Prinz – suggests it: a marathon runner takes advantage of his unusual stamina by robbing banks and fleeing on foot. But the approach taken by director Benjamin Heisenberg is more mysterious and minimalist than hyper-kinetic.

Why does Hans (played by Andreas Lust) run? We’re not told, but glean that it’s the only activity that stirs any feeling in him. Why does he translate his ability to win on the track into a skill for stealing? Not especially out of greed, or even thrillseeking; more because he can. ‘What I do,’ he tells his girlfriend Erika (Franziska Weisz), in a rare gesture towards self-revelation, ‘has nothing to do with what you call life’. So this becomes a film as much about the loneliness of individual consciousness as about the activities of one unusually-wired criminal.

It’s beautifully crafted, with tense chase scenes, fine cinematography and a thoughtful if distant depiction of the dynamics of a relationship devoid of emotional openness or articulacy. But viewers craving explanations for character behaviour are likely to come away as unfulfilled as the unfortunate Erika. A long-mooted Hollywood remake, attached to Andrew Garfield, hasn’t yet seen the light of day; if it does, we may expect a good deal more exploration of the whys and wherefores of the case. Which approach reveals more depends on what you ask from narrative. For those who prefer a bit of existential vagueness to being led by the nose, this is a thought-provoking as well as a technically impressive piece of work.

Limited release from Fri 21 Mar.

The Robber - Official Trailer [HD]

The Robber (Der Rauber)

  • 4 stars
  • 2010
  • Austria / Germany
  • 1h 37min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Benjamin Heisenberg
  • Written by: Benjamin Heisenberg, Martin Prinz
  • Cast: Andreas Lust
  • UK release: 21 March 2014

The true story of Johann Rettenberger, a marathon athlete who robbed banks.