Sundance Review: 'Human Factors' Is About the Journey, Not the Big Reveal Directed by Ronny Trocker
Starring Mark Waschke, Sabine Timoteo, Hassan Akkouch
Published Feb 01, 2021Whether it's the direct upbringing of those fortunate enough to make films or simply the narrative problems solved, the upper-middle class experience is one with no shortage of representation in media. Still, when that's the socioeconomic setting for the unravelling of an uptight European family who seemingly have it all, the representation of rich people is more than welcome.
Human Factors follows Jan (Mark Waschke) and Nina (Sabine Timoteo), a married couple who run a successful German ad agency. When they decide to take on a political client, their bougie loft space is bombarded with protestors and they decide to escape their fancy apartment (with a picturesque yet aggressively noisy subway line outside of their kitchen window) to bask in their countryside home. When Nina discovers intruders have broken into their place, however, their weekend away breaks down, as does everything else.
To be clear, the film is billed as a thriller but is possibly the most subtle thing ever committed to release under that genre tag. Instead, it replays the same scenario over and over again from each character's perspective — including both parents, their two children and the family's pet rat. And while it's often a little dry, director Ronny Trocker has made sure the film looks beautiful at all times, particularly in some breathtaking shots of Jan's morning rowing session.
While many have complained about the film's admittedly low-key reveal, it's less about the narrative structure and more about the journey as we watch the characters misunderstand, manipulate and ultimately disappoint one another each step of the way. The film shares DNA with Ruben Östlund's Force Majeure and Michael Haneke's Code Unknown, but also in the subtle delivery of Joanna Hogg's Archipelago. It's a subtle and slow-moving family drama that, despite its lack of thrills, will still have you on the edge of your seat in a more philosophical mindset. (Zischlermann Filmproduktion)