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Tattoo

Director: Robert Schwentke

Germany| 2002. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 108 minutes.


Tattoo is an exciting directorial debut by director Robert Schwentke, whose new film The Family Jewels (Eierdiebe) was one of the hits of the IFI’s recent German Film Festival. Schwentke studied at the American Film Institute, and the influence of contemporary American genre cinema is very evident in Tattoo. This stylish and imaginative variation on the serial-killer thriller is set in an underground world where tattoos are considered as pieces of art and coveted by unscrupulous collectors. A legendary Japanese artist completed twelve tattoos before mysteriously dying, and all twelve have been stolen, their original owners killed and discarded. Investigating the case is Marc Schrader (August Diehl), a cocky young police graduate who’s heavily into the party scene and has been blackmailed by tough chief inspector Mink (Christian Redl) into joining his homicide department.
As the case proceeds, Schrader realises that he is not so much hunting a warped serial killer as uncovering a clandestine, high-level network of collectors controlled by a freaky mastermind. Tattoo starts with a bang as a naked, bloodied woman stumbles down a Berlin street at night and is knocked over by a bus which then explodes and fries her corpse. Schwentke piles up weird incidents and intrigue in the first reel as if determined not simply to recall American models such as Se7en, but also to outstrip them in a calculating way. But Tattoo really comes into its own as the investigation begins and the film establishes its own atmosphere. As Peter Bradshaw noted in the Guardian, ‘the bleached-out feel to Schwentke’s movie works perfectly with the extraordinarily bleak yet spectacular locations he has discovered in East Berlin: the moonscape suburbs and the city around the Alexanderplatz. The occult secrets are progressively disclosed in a way that triggers horror and twisted eroticism. I’ve seen dozens of films try this. Most fail; this doesn’t.’

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