Inspired by a true story, this third feature by Peter Brunner is a dark tale about a mother and her childlike son clashing with modernization. Johannes’ mother was saved from a hellish past by his father, and the two retreated to a small, remote cabin in the mountains to escape civilization in order to heal. After his father’s tragic death on the mountain, the mother raises her son in isolation, turning to God and fearing both his wrath and the Devil.
Their world is odd ,the relationship between son and mother awkward and ambiguous. Johannes’ bubble is made of his mother, his eagle Arthur, the vet who visits once in a while, and God. A developer starts harassing the family with phone calls, drones, and threats, and the peaceful bubble is burst, unleashing hellish consequences. When Johannes turns to the only thing he ever knew to be true — God — it sets the stage for tragedy: an intellectually disabled man condemning his own mother.
Brunner is a fantastic storyteller and a director with an amazing eye. No wonder Ulrich Seidl (SAFARI, IN THE BASEMENT) took him under his wing, even bringing in long-time collaborator Veronica Franz (THE LODGE, GOODNIGHT MOMMY) to help out. Supported by the gorgeous cinematography of Peter Flinckenberg and carried by incredible actors Franz Rogowski and Susanne Jensen (who are taking huge risks with these roles), this story, inspired by true events, is a fight between nature and modernity, good and evil. LUZIFER is dark. Very dark. But it is a gem of a movie and Brunner is an Austrian director with great talent who deserves exposure. (ANNICK MAHNERT)