“I FUCKING LOVE BERLIN!”
The exclamatory declaration of anarchistic admiration by James McAvoy in Atomic Blonde feels apropos for the general vibe of Helene Hegemann’s first feature film. Set against the backdrop of modern Berlin, Axolotl Overkill is the angst-ridden, unwieldy, chaotic little sister to David Percival’s own love/hate relationship with the seedy underbelly of Germany’s largest city.
Synopsis: “Mifti, age 16, lives in Berlin with a cast of characters including her half-siblings; their rich, self-involved father; and her junkie friend Ophelia. As she mourns her recently deceased mother, she begins to develop an obsession with Alice, an enigmatic, and much older, white-collar criminal.”
Overkill captures the tumultuous, precocious nature of irrepressible youth and Mifti (Jasna Fritzi Bauer) is the embodiment of that unfocused rage, mayhem and guarded vulnerability. Without her recently deceased mother, Mifti is untethered and floats amongst the wilds of the Berlin nightlife unable to truly cope with her loss. She buoys herself by clinging to (seemingly) confident and self-actualized older women and bathing her self in the freedom of unbridled vice. As she peels back the layers of the people she clings to the rawness of their inevitable normalcy or sadness leaves Mifti constantly chasing the high of a more romantic, ungrounded life in hopes of avoiding the depressing reality of her real life.
As we follow her raucous nightlife, it is the during the quieter, isolated moments (usually in the stark light of day) that Mifti’s introspective sadness emerges. Whether it be her firing a gun alone in the woods or a lingering shot of her smoking a cigarette (with the camera roguishly pushing panning in and out), these moments pull back her own façade to showcase an unease and deeply felt sense of loss. That façade serves as her gateway into other, more interesting people’s lives and as a shield against letting reality seep its way into her soul.
Part of that distraction comes from Arly Jover as Alice, the older paramour whom Mifti fixates on. Jover portrayal of Alice is fierce, cool and radiates a sense of mystery/aloofness – likely a big part of Mifti’s fascination with her. Her other fixation is with Ophelia (Mavie Horbiger) – a burgeoning actress on the German TV/movie scene. In Ophelia, Mifti sees an equally reckless parallel to herself (which Horbiger plays with the kind of abandon that blurs the line between fiction and reality). With these two older women, it’s almost as if Mifti is attempting to decide who she wants to be down the line, immersing herself in their worlds like a child trying on her mother’s clothes.
Axolotl Overkill is less a coming of age story and more a mediation on coping with grief. Despite the seemingly cool, gives-no-fucks exterior to Mifti’s persona, nearly everything she does has an underpinning of desperation and woe. It is arguably the most punk rock examination of loss to come out of the modern cinematic era (and the most fun you’ll have being very, very sad).
Axolotl Overkill is available on VoD platforms now. If you happen to check it out, drop us a line with your thoughts on Twitter @Official_FAN