Written by: Peer Meter / Udo Flohr / Antonia Roeller | Directed by: Udo Flohr | Genre: Historical thriller
As the city of Bremen is facing the threat of progress by way of railroad, a new law clerk has her own problems to deal with. Very personal ones. 1828 is a time when women are not thought highly of in the professional world, so when Cato Bohmer (Elisa Thiemann) gets the job as a law clerk, many have their doubts. She is a woman after all and women just don't belong.
Her arrival coincides with the new investigation of poisoning, and rather quickly, Cato thinks there's more going on here than an accident, or the natural transmission of the poison. Gesche Gottfried (Suzan Anbeh) quickly goes from potential victim to prime suspect because all of the victims seem to have some connection with her. As the body count increases, including many people who were thought previously to have died of other various illnesses, Gesche Gottfried's guilt seems clearer and clearer. She's finally arrested but seems to know the system, and enjoys gloating about what she has done when she knows officials can't introduce it as evidence. Gottfried is a serial killer, and woman who enjoys what she does, and this is all based on a true story.
There are a lot of layers in this historical thriller, from how women are perceived during the time period, to the nature of true evil. Gottfried is a pretty ruthless killer, and this film isn't a who done it; we pretty quickly figure that out. It's a "proving she did it" kind of movie. Alongside the major story arc of murder, is also a story of politics and certain coverups that "could" take place in order to secure better political holding. We also have 2 powerful women taking the leading roles in a time when women were not thought of as leaders. In many ways, this movie excels more as a women's rights film than a thriller.
Then there are the excellent performances by the ladies themselves, in a film like this, it's important the women are able to act against each other, and they do it excellently. The two dance circles around each other and it all ends up being a completely believable film. Elisa Thiemann and Suzan Anbeh both have an uncanny ability to just capture attention and when together, it just works. The final interrogation is so engrossing to watch, as is the final scene with the two women as Gottfried awaits her execution. There is a lot of good production work in this film, and the look and feel really help, but it's the actors that breathe life into the script. Effigy Poison and the City is the perfect example of a good story and a good cast/crew steering away from explosions and action sequences to simply bring on some good storytelling. Four stars out of five.
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