Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Picco, Philip Koch, Germany 2010

In Germany, 'Picco' is the name given by inmates to the new kid on the cell-block . It is also the title of Philip Koch's first film in which he uses various accounts and eye-witness reports to highlight gross problems and deficits in detention centres across Germany.

Though Koch's film certainly raises a number of important issues, Picco is essentially a psychological thriller. And let me warn you: It ain't for the faint hearted, either. Though he takes pains not to show any blood or direct violence, the lack of both work in favour of the film, making it all the more violent, if only in the minds of the spectators. Similarly, Koch entirely avoids the use of music, hellbent as he seems to be to allow his audience to be emotionally manipulated. And given the strength of the story no doubt, only a very carefully selected score may have managed not to cheapen the unfolding tragedy we witness on screen. It is only the cinematography where Koch deviates from the cinema verite style which dominates his film as he uses a green filter, with the effect of making life in prison and the prison itself look particularly morbid, lifeless and cold.

Picco is an exercise in psychological film making, an edge-of-your-seat thriller with an excellently crafted story which slowly, almost unnoticeably, heads towards its inevitable, barbarous ending, bound to leave you gasping for breath. However, due to the documentary character of the film, which also is underscored by subtitles that indicate the number of days Picco aka Kevin has been imprisoned, the spectator never loses sight of the fact that what's going on on screen is all based on actual facts. And that's more than enough to give any of us pause.

Picco is highly recommended viewing for everyone, one of the best films to come out of Germany in the past few years, and Koch a talented director to be reckoned with.