In his feature-film debut (according to IMDb), director and co-writer Kevin Kopacka introduces us to the full display of his surreal, dream-like aesthetic. Hager is without a doubt the strangest crime ring, police movie I have ever seen. A German horror film that often feels experimental and is imaginative in its delivery, Hager, or Hades in English, is a daring film that takes the audience on a hellish journey and filters it through a psychedelic lens.
The film follows a cop named Till Hager (Philipp Droste), a philandering husband and apathetic police officer. After a colleague of he and his partner goes missing, they are assigned to take over his case investigating a new social drug called Abaddon, or ABD. A drug that makes the user go on a bad trip which simulates being hell, the drug’s effect is magnified even more so if the user has dark thoughts, mental issues, or fears. Hager is plunged “into eternal darkness, into fire and ice” in search of the drug boss distributing the mind-altering drug.
Kopacka has an artistic eye, making directorial choices that leave the audience intrigued by the style. More than a few of the scenes had the minimalist feel of a stage play — the black background that brings focus to the players at hand was a great touch, reminiscent of Lars Von Trier’s innovative Manderlay. Starring Philipp Droste, Frederik von Lüttichau, Nura Habib Omer, and David Garzón Bardua, the performances of these characters feel real, nothing about this movie seems inauthentic or even planned. Some of the characters inspire ill-feeling because they are so unlikeable, and yet the fact that they were still watchable characters who I was interested in knowing their story speaks to how in-depth and emotive the performances were. The story is a bit hard to follow, but that is because of the film’s psychedelic instances, whose interesting visuals were a good trade-off for depicting this labyrinthine storyline.
Not to mention the dialogue, which was done very well — the conversations were often riveting and pulled me in, coupled with disorienting music and lighting that made Kopacka’s scenes magnetic. The movie is somewhat broken into chapters, with sequences headed off by existential quotes; they seem to all be in reference to Dante’s Inferno, which is fitting, as this movie could be an allegory for man’s descent into hell. The movie unpacks man’s corruption and eternal struggle with morality, and eventually, his judgment, only the movie sets itself in a crime drama instead of an overtly religious exploration. More trippy than gritty, the crime drama aspect of Hager almost feels like an afterthought though, as the movie has hardly any of the familiar traces of hard-nosed investigation or shoot-em-up that an American audience might be expecting.
Hager is a bit uncomfortable at times as the audience is taken on an unrelenting character journey pronounced by an unnerving musical score and unsettling visuals. This movie is smartly written, boasting compelling moments of dialogue and themes that never fail to resonate with an audience — sin and punishment, love, and the human condition. I wouldn’t say it is quite the bizarre drug trip that was Gaspar Noé’s Into The Void, but if you enjoyed that movie’s psychological storyline minced with a drug-induced premise then you may too enjoy Hager.
MOVIE RATING — 6 out of 10 ☠️
|Runtime:||1 hr 18Mins.|
Kevin Koppacka & H.k. DeWitt