A Robber at the Portland Art Museum

Audiences are introduced to Johann Kastenberger (Andreas Lust), an Austrian marathon champion who also has a knack for and addiction to bank robbery.

Audiences are introduced to Johann Kastenberger (Andreas Lust), an Austrian marathon champion who also has a knack for and addiction to bank robbery. As Johann continues a life of crime despite a pressing parole officer, things truly get out of control. Once Johann’s behavior turns violent, his only friend Erika (Franziska Weisz) must decide whether she will fake an alibi or turn him in.

“The Robber” is magnificent. It is a combination of everything that makes a great movie: It is thrilling, sensual, provoking and cinematically beautiful. Director Benjamin Heisenberg neatly folds this true story along with all of its qualities into an hour and a half, which in and of itself is quite a feat.

One of the greatest accomplishments of the film is the genuine performance by Andreas Lust. Lust does an extraordinary job channeling the persona of an utterly indifferent man who nonetheless captivates the audience in vicarious sympathy.

“The Robber” gives an authentic feel to a dramatic plot. Even the robberies appear completely real. One scene illustrates a genuinely shocked teller who cannot move. This is nothing like a Hollywood heist in which all actors expectantly express extreme and immediate terror.

The film delivers the best of both worlds. The chase scenes are so heightened that they employ a Hollywood-like thrill; yet the film also maintains the beautiful realism associated with independent filmmaking. This includes all the overtly silent interactions between Johann and Erika, a fumbled heist and an overall slower mood indicative of actuality. The combination of realism and thrill allows “The Robber” to really penetrate the observer’s distance from the film’s quasi-reality.

The realism is established not only through its acting but also through its various cinematic elements. The camera’s movement as it follows Johann’s races—both on the track and on the run—puts viewers right at the scene. The camera vantage points pull the movie together from various views. Heisenberg convinces audience members that his work is unconstructed, emphasized by the natural lighting that dominates most of the film.

“The Robber” models several ethical dilemmas. The perspective shifts. One moment audiences follow the fleeing Johann, running from a militia of police, and the next they see Erika reaping the consequences of a pivotal decision, on the line between the call of duty and personal interference. The film examines several issues, including inexplicitly the irony of sympathizing and hero-izing criminal protagonists.

At the end of the film, it is hard to know whether to feel sorrow, justice or just confusion. In many ways, the film alludes to healthiness of such a response. Heisenberg constantly jerks the viewer between criminal and emotional scenes. This back-and-forth order plays with the mind, distorting any solid view one may have anticipated of the characters. This overall cinematic technique is beautiful and engaging, but most importantly, provocative. Ethics are challenged. In essence, “The Robber” does its job in entertaining the thrill-seeker and provoking the philosopher. This is a fantastic film overall, both in its acting, plot and cinematic execution. ?