Effigy’s German Serial Killer Drama Weaves Intoxicating—and Toxic—Tale
Effigy: Poison and The City. Available now on Laemmle Virtual Cinema.
In German director Fritz Lang’s creepy 1931 classic M, suspected serial-child killer (except he’s played by Peter Lorre, so you know he’s guilty) Hans Beckert is facing “trial” before a panel of street criminals who intend to execute him. “I cannot help myself!” he protests. “I have no control over this evil thing that is inside me—the fire, the voices, the torment!”
Surely Gesche Gottfried, the arsenic epicurean in Effigy: Poison and The City, is a spiritual descendent of Beckert. Imprisoned on charges of poisoning practically everybody she ever met—her husbands, parents, children (“That motherhood thing is overrated,” she explains to one investigator), neighbors, even a couple of visitors to her jail cell—she listens with rapt attention as the prison chaplain recounts the Biblical tale of Abraham, preparing to sacrifice his own son on orders from God. “Was he enjoying that?” she breathily inquires of the priest.
The odd, unnerving little Effigy—like M, both set and made in Germany—has been kicking around film festivals around the world for more than a year, winning a lot of awards but never an American theatrical release or television showing, until its debut today on the streaming service Laemmle Virtual Cinema. Made by a team of rookies—its director and three screenwriters have one previous feature film on their collective resume—it’s an eccentric yet intriguing mix of murder,
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