Two police officers pull up outside the home of Gabriel Engel (André Hennicke) and, drawing their weapons, knock on the door. Inside his apartment, Engels puts down the paintbrush that he had been holding and undresses. Arming himself with a shotgun, he crosses his hallway and aiming it, fires one barrel at the door. The policeman that was standing immediately before it is now dead, the other lies injured. Inside the apartment, Engel puts down the gun and prepares to leave, still naked. Outside, sirens ring out as further squad cars arrive and a squad of armed police officers enter Engel's building. Still inside, Engel has no intention of coming quietly and waits for the perfect moment to attempt an escape. After the rape and murder of thirteen young boys, the police have, however, no intention of letting him go.
Inside the apartment, the police find the body of a fourteenth boy who passes away as they enter the flat. There is little point in attempting to resuscitate him as the injuries that he has sustained are too severe. On the floor lies a bottle into which Engel has drained his blood and it was this that he was using in his painting. To those that Engel murdered, the police now add this last boy and a policeman. Taking him into custody, the police post a guard outside of his cell as they begin looking through Engel's diaries. But in a small village outside Berlin, a part-time policeman, Michael Martens (Wotan Wilke Moehring), has a murder that's still unsolved, the death of twelve-year-old Lucia Flieder. The community in the village in which he lives are desperate for Martens to find the murderer but when news comes that Engel has information on the killer, they're not sure whether or not to feel happy. There is some excitement in the village but as everyone realises, Lucia Flieder, a young girl, doesn't fit Engel's profile. Martens leaves for Berlin but what he gets from Engel surprises him, no confession but a challenge to understand evil, to know what it feels like to rape and to kill and to better know himself and his own family.
This is going to be a deliberately short review, intentionally saying very little about Antibodies rather than not having much to say about it. Actually, even the introduction above doesn't quite imply how good Antibodies becomes, with the sleeve doing it even less of a favour with the tagline, "Evil Is A Virus". The obvious comparison is with Silence Of The Lambs with Michael Martens being the Clarice Starling to Gabriel Engel but that doesn't quite imply how far down into Engel's world Martens goes to understand him. At first, this seems to be merely a dalliance with what makes a serial killer, an understanding via the basics of psychology, of wetting the bed, the torture of animals and the playing with fire. But from a very conservative Catholic village, Martens begins to realise that there is evil in the world. What shocks him is how close that evil is.
It's a cliche to see the cop in a serial killer, as he becomes closer to the murderer, begin to act in kind. Antibodies doesn't avoid this entirely. The more Martens understands the sexual desire that Engel feels for the young boys that he raped and murdered, the more he wishes to experience such things for himself. A brief visit to Berlin sees him pay for a prostitute for one night, a night that sees the sex turn violent and his first experience of anal sex. When he returns home, his wife reaches out to him and Martens responds but more brutally and with less care. But her night ends with her sitting on the toilet crying and with a bloody cloth between her legs. She returns to their bedroom and separates the two single beds to opposite sides of the room. The next day, Martens attends confession but, disappointed by the ten Hail Marys and five Our Fathers recommended by the priest, he sits at his desk, takes out his stapler and punches staples through his left arm.
However much this is a staple of the serial killer film, even to, as in Seven, Detective Mills becoming murderer, Antibodies surprises with a stunning series of twists during its last twenty-five minutes, With each one, director Christian Alvart illustrates how easily the truth can fall to guilt, to suspicions and to the fear of the world that Martens' Catholicism has instilled in him. As the film nears its end, Martens suspects everyone, his psyche unraveling as the days pass and the more he misinterprets the words of the Bible, the closer he gets to becoming, as did Mills, a killer. What this culminates in is the recalling of the events of the night on which Lucia Flieder was murdered, when a simple instance of teenage sexuality ends in the killing of Flieder and the cutting open of her body from neck to groin. Much better a film than its marketing might suggest, it's also a more surprising one and rather than give anything more away, I'll end this here. Except to say that the ending is a surprise, shocking and, for a serial killer film, affecting. Forgiveness is most certainly there, as is love, but still horror, which, all too rarely, is palpable.
Tartan have done a very good job with Antibodies, sourcing a print in excellent condition and doing a marvellous job on transferring it onto DVD. Of course, being so influenced by Silence Of The Lambs, a fair amount of Antibodies takes place in a stark white prison cell but it also handles the darkness of the murder scenes, the blood and grime of Engel's apartment and the rolling hills of Martens' home with ease, each one looking good and with such detail as to be very impressive. Antibodies does look wonderful and after the rather ordinary job done on Union City, restores a little of one's faith in Tartan.
Similarly, the soundtrack, available in a choice of DD5.1, DTS and DD2.0, is very good, there being so little background noise that the dialogue and occasional effects really stand out. Director Christian Alvart uses the audio tracks to portray Martens' unraveling all, with there being silence and a crushing oppressiveness, and Tartan has done a fine job indeed on their presentation of this film. Finally, there are English subtitles that are enabled by default but these, for German speakers, can be switched off.
As well as the Film Notes that Tartan promises accompanies the final retail version but which is not included with this check disc, there is a small amount of B Roll Footage (3m56s) and Interviews with director Christian Alvart (17m51s) and actors André Hennicke (4m14s) and Wotan Wilke Moehring (2m18s). None of these are particularly interesting, Alvart talks about his experiences as a runner before making his feature debut with Antibodies as well as his influences and what is coming next, whilst the two actors discuss their interest in the script and what they believe they brought to the film. Finally, there is a Trailer (1m49s).