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Film Review: Die Theorie Von Allem (The Universal Theory)
by Marinell Haegelin

Timm Kröger, Germany, Austria, Switzerland 2023

Director-co-writer Timm Kröger and co-writer Roderick Warich’s screenplay begins in Hamburg, Germany, in 1974, then backtracks 12 years to the Alps where a boy (Jonathan Wirtz) and girl (Vivienne Bayley) are sledding; ominous clouds form, a mountain emits a deep-bellied rumble and subsequently they are in a scary tunnel.

Abruptly, the film switches to the doctoral physics student Johannes embarking with the learned Doctor Strathen (Hanns Zischler) to a physics congress in Switzerland. Enroute, bombastic Prof. Blumberg (Gottfried Breitfuss) boards the train, joins and then bores them. At the Alpine hotel the Iranian scientist guest speaker doesn’t arrive; they nevertheless remain. Johannes’s world mysteriously tips when he accidentally meets Karin (Olivia Ross), a jazz pianist. Thenceforth there’s an avalanche of unexplainable events, an unaccountable and grisly death, children in hospital, and on and on. The character most consistent in its actions is the environment, and whether at its scariest and/or enigmatic, it is majestic to behold.

The actors, failing to achieve emotional connection to their characters, effectuate audiences’ detachment and indifference. Warich and Kröger’s convoluted screenplay staggers between classic 1940s/1950s noir dramas—complex plots that stayed on point and had clarifying flashbacks and motivations—and in contrast a plot that unsuccessfully inserts the parallel universes theory with a depiction that’s elusive and incomprehensible. The film’s length only accentuates the storyline’s many gaps and confusion.

Just because Roland Stuprich’s (outstanding) cinematography is in black/white doesn’t make this a film noir. Diego Ramos Rodriguez and David Schweighart’s felicitous score loses its effectiveness through overuse, which evinces Jann Anderegg’s blatant heavy-handed editing. DIE THEORIE VON ALLEM’s many good elements, and the script’s attempt to intertwine classic filmmaking elements and the modern parallel worlds concept was a bold undertaking by Kröger. Their entanglement emphasizes his unsureness leading to stupefaction and a ponderous too-long film—too bad.