Internal and external labyrinths lead to an inconclusive finish in “Vinzent,” an intriguing but ultimately over-directed, and abstruse debut feature from Ayassi, nom de plume for German commercial and video helmer Stefan Epmeier. As a man tries to gather signatures for an animal rights petition, he’s drawn into a web of paranoia, rumor and perceptions that may be in his own head — with comic art and animation providing clues. Lack of a satisfying or moving denouement may lead auds to resent the pic, lessening its chances as an art-cult item in fests and Euro territories.
Asked by g.f. Rose (Tabea Heynig) to help with petitioning, Vinzent (Detlef Bothe) lands in an apartment where the dead daughter of the building’s owner (Thomas Bestvater) has been laid out in an open casket. Possibly drugged, Vinzent later comes to, and thinks he spots Rose under assault in a neighboring apartment rented out to mystery man Podesch.
Michael Wallner’s script rolls out a motley crew of folk who could be the love children of Roman Polanski and Dario Argento — mangy men who look like they’re trying to cover up something, old widows drowning in suspicion, younger women who may or may not be real. Meandering through their lives, Vinzent feels like a Kafkaesque Everyman who could be trapped in a world of his own making, and Bothe plays it as blankly as he can so as not to tip anyone’s hand.
Still, the ending plays like a cheat, and Ayassi’s obvious love of in-camera effects, wide-angle lenses and cockeyed angles — plus lenser Daniel Gottschalk’s obsession with extremely low exposures in digital video — creates a goulash of sometimes nearly imperceptible images in search of meaning. Composers and sound designers Andreas Muller and Ingo Fried create an enveloping audio world that’s creepier by far than the pretentious visuals. Supreme oddity is the Japanese-lingo animated character, based on Benjamin Gurn’s and Robert Kizielwicz’ black-and-white comics, who helps Vinzent in the end.