‘Nothing Bad Can Happen’ is disturbing and sickening, in both good and bad ways

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Nothing Bad Can Happen
Written and directed by Katrin Gebbe
Germany, 2013

It’s rare that a film like Katrin Gebbe’s Nothing Bad Can Happen refuses to focus on vengeance as resolution, or even conflict. Rather, despite its unflinching brutality, there are some truly uplifting ideas at work. And then it decides to hate women.

Based on true events previously covered in an internet article, the film concerns Tore, a young member of the Hamburg-founded commune ‘The Jesus Freaks’, and by far the most naive. He saunters through the commune, bouncing his short blonde hair and lanky frame to the sounds of Jesus metal. His naivete is near savant-like, with him even believing that the power of prayer can help start a dead automobile. When this (miraculously) actually works, he comes to stay with the vehicle’s owner, Benno (Sascha Alexander Gersak), and his family.

Benno slowly becomes a new, more cruel God for Tore to follow through what begins as subtle subversion and slowly turns into outright torture. He exploits rent money from Tore’s simplistic beliefs that money doesn’t matter. He beats him, first apologizing as though it was a bad joke. His motives and methods are two-fold. One could argue Benno’s only goal is to undermine Tore’s religious beliefs, or perhaps it is incited by Tore’s good-natured involvement with Benno’s step-family. Throughout, Tore sticks to his pacifistic ways. From there, Nothing Bad Can Happen inevitably becomes sickeningly cruel.

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The performances in the film, all from newcomers, come off as naturalistic, with Gersak really shining. His underlying anger slowly grows deep into his physical features until it is all to been seen. Elsewhere, there is something truly admirable about Tore’s inability to betray his system of beliefs, even in the face of grotesquery. Sadly, his savant-like nature makes him come off less like a martyr and more a fool. And that’s without considering a brutal left turn not to be spoiled here. After such an intensely brutal focus on Tove and Benno’s relationship, the film makes an unforgivable and baffling misogynistic turn. The final scenes of Nothing Bad Can Happen definitely don’t sync with the emotional brutality the viewer has suffered.

— Kenny Hedges

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