A rather unusual tale about a young man’s obsession with an Irish harp star, “The Harpist” is a moderately interesting Gothic thriller that delivers lots of evocative atmosphere and all too few believable plot developments. This German-U.K. co-production initially intrigues with its mix of poetic storytelling, erotic ambience and twisted characters, but the story unravels along the way and will stretch most viewers’ patience beyond the breaking point. Pic is not likely to pluck up a storm theatrically in Europe, and its prospects are even less bright in North America. “The Harpist” looks to make most of its music on tube slots internationally.
Beginning on an isolated German island in the Baltic Sea, yarn opens with Ferdinand (Christien Anholt) working in a book shop and dreaming of future glory as a novelist. Then one day the young man stumbles across a most unusual sight — a beautiful woman playing the harp in a huge seashell floating just off the beach. It turns out to be a photo shoot featuring the popular harpist Rebecca (Geraldine O’Rawe). The alluring Celtic temptress immediately has Ferdinand in a trance.
Ferdinand keeps trying, unsuccessfully, to get close to Rebecca. Then he runs into the mysterious Henry (Stephen McGann), who drives him to Hamburg, where Rebecca is giving a concert. The young admirer ends up in a shabby hotel across from Rebecca’s apartment, which allows him to play voyeur. The ever-creepier Henry keeps showing up, and his presence becomes increasingly unsettling to Ferdinand.
When Rebecca invites Ferdinand home to Dublin for a recording session, he jumps at the chance to spend time with his love and to escape the clutches of Henry, who is determined to insert himself into Ferdinand’s life. In classic thriller fashion, Henry follows the couple to Ireland and his true identity is revealed in a blood-soaked ending.
Director Hansjorg Thurn shows more skill in setting the eerie mood than he does in keeping the thrills coming at a good click, and the script by Thurn and Phil O’Shea isfilled with improbable twists, only to revert to hackneyed thriller moves for the finale. The subplot about dark love and subterranean sexual passions is enticing, but the film touches on these notions only briefly before heading straight back to the main action.
Both Anholt and O’Rawe are adequate, but it is McGann who makes the most memorable impression, providing some of pic’s few sparks with his demented presence. Gerry Lively’s lensing is long on ultra-shadowy shots that set the nocturnal mood. All other tech credits are fine.