Skip to content

Cuckoo by Tilman Singer review


Cuckoo is the second feature by Tilman Singer, who made the wonderful Luz, presented in the Perspektive Deutsches Kino section of the 2018 Berlinale. Six years later, he is back with a clearly bigger project, which is a US co-production. Gretchen (Hunter Schafer) travels to the German Alps with her father and stepmother. In the resort town where they are staying, she comes across some dark secrets. Not only is she immersed in an impressive sound design, but she also has visions of a woman in a trenchcoat chasing her. What is real and what is not, and is the resort where the family is staying involved in weird experiments? The answer bears few surprises.

Gretchen recently lost her mother and frequently calls the old answering machine to hear her voice. (Grief is a general theme in the film) The owner of the resort is an ominous man called Mr König (Dan Stevens), who offers Gretchen a reception job while her father is busy working for him. He still warns her not to go out alone. Her stepsister, Alma, who is the outcome of vanishing twin syndrome, is mute and soon will suffer from seizures. Things quickly get out of hand or off the rails, depending on how one chooses to approach the film. Plenty of strange things happen with time and space, and the plot often turns on a screw, whether loose or not.

Cuckoo Hunter Schafer
Hunter Schafer in Cuckoo.

Not Absolutely Cuckoo

Luz was a graduation film that became a first feature and was made on a tiny budget but with lots of freedom, which might account for the freshness in the structure. With a larger budget and more famous actors there were reasons to worry about to what extent Singer would be able to keep and develop his style. It turned out that the need to worry was overstated. The cinematographer, Paul Faltz, who shot Luz is still on board. The style is somewhat flashier, but the colour scheme and production design are not all too dissimilar to the precious work. The editing and sound design are also major factors in creating a constantly gripping experience.

All in all, the larger budget is well spent. Cuckoo is a film to experience rather than to describe. There will surely be viewers who may not find the plot shatterproof, but the whole affair is done with verve with a camera that gleefully glides through the plotholes like they are assets rather than drawbacks. The actors are game as well, not only the ones already mentioned but also Marton Csokas and Jan Bluthardt. The latter is the only actor that remains from Luz. Singer’s second film is a fascinating ride with many familiar building blocks, which still manages to feel unique. Neon will distribute the film in the US, and hopefully, Cuckoo will travel to several other countries, too.

Cuckoo was presented as a Berlinale Special Gala screening but wouldn’t have been out of place in other sections, even including the competition.

YouTube video

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share to...