Nifty little fantasy-thriller that could be even better in English-lingo remake it cries out for.

A nifty little fantasy-thriller that could be even better in the English-lingo remake it cries out for, “The Door” builds some credible drama from its central idea of a deadbeat given a second chance at life following a tragic accident. Moodily directed by Anno Saul (“Kebab Connection”), this genre item is let down by an overly blank performance from Danish thesp Mads Mikkelsen (“Casino Royale”), here dubbed into German, and a finale that doesn’t quite deliver dramatically. But the strong supporting cast and clever plot twists make this worth a look for genre aficionados and fantasy fests. “Door” opened mildly in Deutschland in late November.

David Andernach (Mikkelsen) is a successful painter with a nice house in the ‘burbs; an attractive wife, Maja (Jessica Schwarz); and a cute young daughter, Leonie (Valeria Eisenbart). But one bright summer’s day, when he should have been hunting butterflies with Leonie, David is busy servicing his horny mistress, Gia (Heike Makatsch, in a cameo), around the corner — and comes back to find that Leonie has drowned after tripping into the family pool.

Five years later, in winter, Max is a scruffy wreck and Maja has divorced him. But after trying to kill himself in the self-same pool, he’s led by a butterfly to a hidden tunnel that opens onto … the very day Leonie died.

Script by Jan Berger (“Kebab Connection,” “FC Venus”), from a 2001 novel by Akif Pirincci — dubbed Germany’s Stephen King — delivers some nice ironies early on, as David sees his original self heading off to see Gia and realizes he has a chance to rescue Leonie if he runs fast. This he does, but not without attracting the attention of his earlier self, and soon enough David’s life is starting to unravel all over again, albeit in a different way.

As the time-bending (and brain-bending) twists pile up, the pic isn’t quite slick enough to sustain the suspension of disbelief needed to make it work as a pure genre item. Helmer Saul and the cast are better at capturing the small behavioral niceties, particularly Maja’s and Leonie’s suspicions that everything isn’t quite right.

Both Schwarz (“The Red Cockatoo”) and Eisenbart (10 at the time) are very good in these roles, though they get little help from Mikkelsen’s cold, unengaging perf. Thomas Thieme, as a jovial neighbor, adds some dramatic heft as the plot pulls its final switcheroo, but the subsequent finale lacks a satisfyingly physical punch.

Technical package is fine, with flavorsome summer/winter widescreen lensing by Bella Halben in Potsdam and Hamburg, and atmospheric scoring by Fabian Roemer.

The Door

Germany

Production

A Senator Film Verleih release of a Wueste Film production, in association with Wueste Film Ost, Senator Film Produktion. (International sales: Telepool, Munich.) Produced by Ralph Schwingel, Stefan Schubert. Co-producer, Christoph Mueller. Directed by Anno Saul. Screenplay, Jan Berger, based on the 2001 novel "Die Damalstuer" by Akif Pirincci.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Bella Halben; editor, Andreas Radtke; music, Fabian Roemer; music supervisor, Pia Hoffmann; production designer, Boerries Hahn-Hoffmann; costume designer, Katrin Aschendorf; sound (Dolby Digital), Joerg Krieger, Richard Borowski; sound designer, Kai Storck; assistant director, Thomas Brueck; casting, Deborah Congia. (In Pusan Film Festival -- Midnight Passion.) Reviewed at Kino in der KulturBrauerei 4, Berlin, Dec. 9, 2009. Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Mads Mikkelsen, Jessica Schwarz, Valeria Eisenbart, Thomas Thieme, Heike Makatsch, Tim Seyfi, Stephan Kampwirth, Suzan Anbeh, Nele Trebs, Thomas Arnold, Karsten Dahlem, Rene Lay, Christof Duero, Sabine Berg, Patrick Heinrich.
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