Problems of tone dog “Head Under Water,” a small-town murder mystery that can’t make up its mind whether it’s a black comedy or a macabre thriller. The first feature by German helmer Andreas Kleinert since his well-received 1999 drama “Paths in the Night” has its moments, but would be more marketable (and focused) with tightening by 10-15 minutes.
At Kafka High, in a picturesque burg, someone kills swimming jock Robert Greiner (Philipp Danne) with a poisoned eclair. Suspects include geeky Rico Bartsch (Frederick Lau), who’s making a video for the school’s upcoming fest; hated sports coach Schwammer (Devid Striesow), who lives with Rico’s phamacist mom (Dagmar Manzel); art teacher Martin Wegner (August Diehl), who starts giving Rico private tuition; and uptight music teacher Michaela Rammelow (Fritzi Haberlandt, good), who holds a torch for the cool Wegner. Also causing a lot of trouble is Greiner’s queen-bitch g.f. (Alice Dwyer), who thinks she’s pregnant. Shot in saturated colors that create an unreal atmosphere but don’t help explain the muddled psychology, pic occasionally recalls German black comedies of the ’90s like “The Pharmacist,” but lacks their sheer style.