Brilliant computer science student Piet (Adam Ild Rohweder) is socially and sexually inept, preferring to spend his days locked in his room rather than out in the real world. He is caught off guard when the beautiful Klara (Paulina Galazka) asks if she can partner with him on a project. Initially reluctant, Piet eventually agrees when Klara proves to be persistent. The two unlikely friends start to bond but Piet begins to think that Klara could be something more than a friend thanks to the influence of his friend Alex (Pit Bukowski). Making a move on her, Piet is devastated when he’s rejected and the next time he sees Klara, his life takes a shocking turn that he may never recover from.
Written and directed by German film-maker Linus de Paoli, A Young Man With High Potential sees its international cast all speaking English. The film opens with Piet being approached by a detective, Ketura Stantz (Amanda Plummer), who is trying to find out the circumstances that led up to Klara’s death. Piet protests his innocence before the film jumps back in time to show the viewer how the events unfolded. The first 40 minutes or so fall into the category of character-driven drama as we see Piet and Klara meet and begin working together.
The inclusion of Klara in Piet’s life is a positive one as she starts to bring him out of himself and take him away from his reclusive life, where he spends most of his time as a voyeur online to sex worker Kylie (Laurence Roothooft). When the film reaches the moment of Piet making a move on Klara, you already know he’s going to rebuffed. All the signs are there and the two characters couldn’t be on more different wave lengths. What you’re probably not prepared for is how dark the film turns very quickly after that point.
I don’t want to give too much away so I’m purposely going to talk about the second half of the film in the vaguest of terms. I have a strong stomach for the horror genre but A Young Man With High Potential really did test me. Once the tone of the film shifts, it gets very bleak very quickly and I actually found myself covering my eyes to stop seeing what was going on. The sounds I could still here, were enough to make me feel very uncomfortable and very, very queasy. Of course that’s the aim of de Paoli and his portrayal of what transpires between Piet and Klara is unflinching.
Adam Ild Rohweder gives an absolutely chilling performance and he easily carries the film. The way he transforms his character across the film’s 85 minutes is pretty incredible and despite his actions, you still find yourself feeling a little bit sorry for Piet. I actually hated myself by the end of the film for just how I did feel towards him but de Paoli does a very good job of forcing you to look at the shades of grey between the black and white. Amanda Plummer, while only in the film for a short time, makes an impression as the cocky detective trying to coerce information from Piet that the police failed to get.
A Young Man With High Potential is in many ways an incredible film but it’s also one that’s so unrelenting during its second half, that I wouldn’t be surprised if some people choose to leave the cinema. It’s not an easy watch at all and the ending left me a little frustrated, not giving me the payoff I was desperately hoping for. Just be warned, you really do need to proceed with caution for this one and if you can get through the graphic scenes around the mid-point, you’ll find plenty to sink your teeth into.
Cast: Adam Ild Rohweder, Paulina Galazka, Pit Bukowski, Amanda Plummer, Vania Bajdarova, Laurence Roothooft Director: Linus de Paoli Writer: Linus de Paoli Certificate: TBC Duration: 85 mins Released by: Schattenkante and Hahn Film AG