Die Farbe (2010)
Review by Annie Riordan
(originally written in 2011)
“It was just a colour out of space – a frightful messenger from unformed realms of infinity beyond all Nature as we know it; from realms whose mere existence stuns the brain and numbs us with the black extra-cosmic gulfs it throws open before our frenzied eyes.” – H.P. Lovecraft
An elderly man has gone missing. Following a scanty trail of clues, his adult son John follows him to Germany, fearing for his safety and wanting only to bring him home. Upon his arrival in a small village, John literally bumps into a lifelong resident, one Armin Pierske, who remembers John’s father from the final days of WW2. Eager for any information regarding his father, John sits himself down and listens to the long, harrowing and – quite frankly – unbelievable tale that Armin has to tell, a tale that begins well before the war with the fall of a comet.
Harmlessly slamming into the countryside of southwest Germany, the comet leaves a sizable crater and attracts a team of scientists as well as curious farmers. The comet is abnormally hot, appears to be hollow and is rapidly shrinking. Samples are taken and tested, but nothing much comes of it. Soon, the space rock is gone, seemingly melted away into the soil below.
Soon thereafter, rumors begin to circulate about the Gartener family, a father, mother and three sons who maintain a farm in the bottom of the valley. Summer has brought them a bumper crop, but the fruits prove to be rancid despite their healthy appearance. The winter snows do not stick to the ground around their farm. It is whispered that the trees seem to move their branches, even when there is no breeze. Concerned, Armin pays the family a visit, only to find that the insects have swollen to three times their normal size and that Frau Gartener herself has gone quietly mad.
The eldest son soon follows. Then the youngest disappears. Everyone in the valley begins avoiding the family, as if their misfortune and madness is contagious. And it may well be, as Armin slowly comes to realize that whatever the comet carried with it on its descent to earth has worked its way into the well water and is taking over all who ingest it.
Filmed in black and white and primarily spoken in German (thank god for subtitles), it is obvious that Die Farbe did not have a huge budget to work with. Effects are minimal and the cast is utterly unknown. I should point out that these are all good things, and work very much in the films favor. There is no CGI to rely on, no name actors to carry it. Rather, the filmmakers do the unthinkable: they create a genuine atmosphere of unimaginable dread and unspeakable horror, using shadow, suggestion and rare splashes of that Nameless colour in a few select frames. In short, they did a damn good job. Die Farbe is subtle in its mounting horror, nurturing a dark dread deep in your bowels with every shot. All of the best and most stomach-turningly distressing films I’ve ever seen have come out of Germany: M, The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, The White Ribbon, and now this one. Leave it to the Germans. We know how to gross you out on the deepest psychological levels. Lovecraft worshippers and devotees of German Expressionism alike, take heed: seek out and view this film at your earliest possible convenience. It’s a dark, noisome little gem that will squirm into your subconscious and lay its eggs in your sanity. Hey, not everyone gets the honor of being a host organism for the Elder Gods, you know.