Slightly overlong and repetitive it might be, but System Crasher is nonetheless an unconventional and powerful drama.
Exploring the result of trauma through the wailing, raging vessel of a 9-year-old girl played extraordinarily by Helena Zengel, writer-director Nora Fingscheidt’s System Crasher, new on Netflix today, is an exhausting, powerful film with a revelatory lead in Zengel’s Benni.
Benni is the product of extreme misfortune and requires constant psychiatric care. The conventional systems – care homes, foster families, schools – are ill-equipped to deal with her; she lashes out, fights, howls, screams, and can only be reached by her mother (Lisa Hagmeister), who is herself unable to deal with the strain Benni exerts on those around her. Benni’s anger is justifiable and understandable, as is the difficulty in dealing with its repercussions. Possible redemption might be found in her school escort Micha (Albrecht Schuch) and his unconventional ideas, but every scene bristles with the potential of another outburst.
This makes System Crasher tense, yes, but the film also eschews easy answers. It never allows Benni to become just a troubled child; she’s a fully-fledged and three-dimensional character who is easy both to root for and resent at any given moment. Refusing to take the easy way out by indicting an imperfect care system, the film instead allows for the idea that some people, through no fault of their own, are beyond the help of traditional systems and ideas. The power of kindness, empathy, and understanding are key themes amongst the chaos, and the nuance to be found within the details of the plot and the supporting performances reposition System Crasher as something much more than a drama which revels in misery for easy emotional power.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.