DIFF 2011 Review: SHE DESERVED IT
Writer/Director: Thomas Stiller
Cast: Veronica Ferres, Liv Lisa Fries, François Goeske, Saskia Schindler
SHE DESERVED IT is a made-for-television German film by writer/director Thomas Stiller who, according to his IMDb profile, has mostly done other made-for-TV movies in Germany. The film is nothing new. While the promise of being a gritty, violent youth film is what drew me into the theater in the first place, it was the failure to accomplish that in a subtle manner that turned me away from it.
SHE DESERVED IT is a non-linear narrative that opens up with a girl who has been beaten and tied up lying on the floor of a dark attic somewhere. The film, though told out of order, tells the story of how sixteen year old Susanne is killed by her classmates. Susanne, a popular teenage girl with a happy family, invites her classmates to her sixteenth birthday party one day at school, and along with those classmates is her crush, Josch. Big mistake though, because Josch's girlfriend and winner of angry-teen-of-the-year award is Linda. Linda takes Susanne's invitation as her hitting on Josch, and decides to get revenge.
Linda talks Josch and her other right-hand man, Kati, into a cruel trick that results in Susanne's death. Joining this timeline is an additional part of the narrative that is inter-spliced and takes place one year after Susanne's death, on her would-be seventeenth birthday. Susanne's mom, Nora, is grieving after losing her only daughter, and decides to visit Linda in prison and Linda's parents to try to get closure and move on with her life and give her daughter's killer a chance to reconcile.
My main problem with the film were the characters. I found it hard to actually care about anyone in the film. The film builds up the differences between the kind and "lovable" Susanne with the cruel Linda so much that I found it caricature-esque. Almost every scene of Susanne's loving family is followed by a scene of Linda's cruelness or her dysfunctional family to really drill it into the audience that one is the victim and the other is cruel. The film tries to get you to sympathize with Linda through a few very obvious tactics, and in my opinion, they don't work at all. From the beginning she beats up her boyfriend, yells at her mother, takes a walker from an elderly woman, and generally just hates everyone she meets.
Of course, there are not-so-subtle suggestions that Linda is only mean to Susanne and everyone around her because she's so insecure and unhappy with her life. I can see that, but the fact that it's taken to such an extreme such as murder is where the story gets absurd to me. She ultimately kills this girl because she invited Linda's boyfriend to her birthday party - the extremity of the situation just seems so painstakingly exaggerated. The only redeeming quality of Linda throughout the entire film is that the only person she shows love towards is her little brother, Oskar, who is mentally challenged. That's the only quality that they use throughout the entire film to get the audience to care about Linda, so ultimately I just had a hard time connecting with anyone in the film.
My other concern were the disappearance of two of the central characters Josch and Kati, Linda's two accomplices. They were completely missing from the second narrative with Susanne's mom, Nora visiting Linda to try to get closure. I was left wondering if they were in jail, or if Nora even knew about them. Pretty much after their role in the act of violence against Susanne and the events directly after, they disappear from the film, and that bothered me since they had such a key role in the first narrative.
While SHE DESERVED IT was watchable, the characters and delivery were ultimately what left me unsatisfied. The violent element is definitely present in the film, but I felt like it tried too hard to be a gritty thriller, leaving no room for subtleties. It's an exaggerated look at how violence has infiltrated the youth culture and a skewed look at how family has contributed to that.
Commenting Rules: Comments are intended to open up the discussion to our readers about the topics at hand, and as such should be offered with a positive and constructive attitude. If your comment is not relative to the above post or is disrespectful to the authors and readers, we reserve the right to delete it. Continued abuse of our good nature will result in banishment of the offender. Additionally, if you have any burning issues to point out to the GATW crew - typos, corrections, suggestions, or straight-up criticism - please email us instead of commenting here.