Rotterdam Film Review: ‘Parabellum’

Fitfully amusing and pleasingly unpredictable, Lukas Valenta Rinner's film ties a minimalist end-of-days scenario to a trenchant look at bourgeois nihilism.


Pablo Seijo, Eva Bianco, Martin Shanly. (Spanish dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3661410/reference

A nondescript group attend a survival training camp as the world slips into disaster in Lukas Valenta Rinner’s deadpan and distancing “Parabellum.” Shifting from comically surreal to absolutely serious, Rinner’s debut feature is something of a one-trick pony, playing with bourgeois notions of ensuring survival by paying tuition and going through drills under the watchful tutelage of “experts.” The irony, such as it is, is that the world really is experiencing some kind of cataclysm, for which the trainees, unflinchingly casting aside ethical constraints, are well prepared. Fitfully amusing and pleasingly unpredictable, the pic boasts ultra-controlled lensing that makes it a fest natural, and its short running time is a plus.

The influence of Carlos Reygadas seems discernible at the opening, as a striking credits sequence shifts to a starry night sky, the camera panning down as dusk emerges to reveal fields and the pastoral sound of animals in the environs. Then incessant percussion builds on the soundtrack until — bang! A missile explodes and shatters the tranquility. Something is definitely not right with the world.

Hernan (Pablo Seijo), a colorless figure in a monochromatic world of browns, beiges and bone, impassively leaves his office in the Argentine city of Cordoba as the radio reports on looting and vandalism. He visits his father in a nursing home, takes his cat to a pet boarding lodge, cancels his phone service, and boards a bus with similarly pasty people for a survival camp in the woods. There, the silent participants choose courses such as “Camouflage,” or “Politics,” or “Homemade Explosives,” interspersed with downtime spent relaxing by the pool.

Watching these too-thin or too-doughy middle-class trainees going through attack exercises generates chuckles, yet occasional signs of global unease, such as a comet streaking across the sky, provide a discreet yet disturbing corrective. Then Hernan, together with two others, invade a villa and kill the owners, after which the tone is definitively turned and the unemotional lensing flips from a kind of postmodern, bemused voyeurism to something far more chilling.

Rinner’s stated goal is to comment on the destructive influence of rampant global capitalism while toying with the cultural thirst for end-of-the-world scenarios. Whether audiences think he achieves his goals depends on how polemical they want to get: His nihilistic characters have the means to pay for their survival training, yet whether unbridled capitalism is what made them self-centered killers isn’t exactly clear. Full-screen quotations from an invented “Book of Disasters” highlight the trajectory from protecting oneself during a catastrophe to being an active predator in times of chaos.

Apart from the near-wordlessness of it all, most striking is Roman Kasseroller’s painstakingly observational camera, wedding Austrian frigidity with new South American cinema’s fondness for a kind of embalmed isolation (Rinner is Salzburg-born, with an Argentine education). Lensing is still, but with a hint of quivering that adds to the tension, and the spare editing works to eliminate what could be construed as manipulative energy. The disturbing final sequence leaves a lasting impression and, together with what came before, marks Rinner as an interesting voice to follow.

Rotterdam Film Review: 'Parabellum'

Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (competing), Jan. 26, 2015. (Also in Gothenburg Film Festival — Tibida.) Running time: 75 MIN.


(Argentina-Austria-Uruguay) A Nabis Filmgroup, Universidad del Cine, 2MCine, Catnap, La Pobladora Cine production. Produced by Lukas Valenta Rinner. Co-producers, Javier Favot, Juan Pablo Martinez, Alex Piperno, Guenther Rinner. Executive producers, Lukas Valenta Rinner, Ana Godoy.


Directed by Lukas Valenta Rinner. Screenplay, Rinner, Esteban Prado, Ana Godoy. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Roman Kasseroller; editors, Ana Godoy, Javier Favot; music, Dino Spiluttini; production designer, Valentina Dariomerlo; costume designer, Romina Gutierrez; sound, Nahuel Palenque; assistant director, Leandro Koch.


Pablo Seijo, Eva Bianco, Martin Shanly. (Spanish dialogue)

More Film


    SAG-AFTRA Leaders Approve Proposal for New Film-TV Contract

    The SAG-AFTRA national board has approved proposals for a successor deal to its master contract covering feature film and primetime television — a key step in the upcoming negotiations cycle with companies. The board approved the package Saturday with the performers union declining to reveal any specifics — its usual policy. The board established the wages [...]

  • Cameron Crowe, David Crosby, A.J. Eaton.

    Cameron Crowe on Why He Loved Leaving David Crosby Doc on a CSNY Question Mark

    David Crosby may or may not have stuck a joint in Cameron Crowe’s mouth the first time he ever met the future filmmaker, when Crosby was peaking with Crosby Stills Nash & Young and his interviewer was a precocious 15-year-old Rolling Stone correspondent. As Crowe said to Jimmy Kimmel the other night, “I remember it [...]

  • Mokalik

    Nigeria’s Kunle Afolayan: African Audiences Shouldn’t Be ‘Second-Class’

    DURBAN–A young boy from a middle-class home gets an unconventional schooling in the ways of the world when he’s forced to apprentice at a mechanic’s workshop in a rough-and-tumble section of Lagos. “Mokalik” is the latest feature from Kunle Afolayan, a leading figure in the wave of filmmakers revitalizing the Nigerian film industry. The film [...]

  • Alicia Rodis photographed by Alicia Rodis

    SAG-AFTRA Moves to Standardize Guidelines for Intimacy Coordinators

    SAG-AFTRA is moving to standardize guidelines for intimacy coordinators as part of an effort to establish policies for union members when their work involves nudity and simulated sex. “Our goal is to normalize and promote the use of intimacy coordinators within our industry,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “Intimacy coordinators provide an important safety net for [...]

  • The Lion King

    Box Office: 'The Lion King' Roars Overseas With Mighty $269 Million

    Disney’s “The Lion King” certainly felt the love this weekend, generating $269 million at the international box office. Director Jon Favreau’s remake of the classic Disney cartoon now holds the eighth-biggest debut of all time overseas, and that’s not including the film’s early opening in China last weekend. Combined with a stellar $185 million start [...]

  • Scarlett JohanssonMarvel Studios panel, Comic-Con International,

    Scarlett Johansson Reveals What We'll Learn About Black Widow in Stand-Alone Movie

    Scarlett Johansson can finally talk about her upcoming “Black Widow” movie. While she can’t divulge spoilers, she let out a big sigh of relief after the film was officially announced on Saturday during the Marvel Studios presentation at Comic-Con. “I feel like a weight has been lifted,” the Oscar nominee told Variety. “Black Widow” is [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content