There is something to the aesthetic of Where the Woods End, the thriller short subject from director Felix Ahrens. It is sleek and gritty all at once. A glorious crane shot of the titular woods opens the short, panning across the lush, unassuming setting.
Where the Woods End is a taut psychological thriller that follows the growing internal torment of police officer Elke (Henrike von Kuick) after she accidentally shoots a seemingly innocent man in the line of duty. The conceit is simple, and the film takes its sweet time getting to its climactic final confrontation. If nothing else, this makes the isolated tension of the climax all the more unexpected.
Counter-intuitively, the film’s simplicity is its most intricate part. There is not much in the way of thought-provoking thematic meditations. The narrative is straight forward to a fault.
Yet, the ending of the film is heart-breaking and shocking. The film is not an action thriller with a mystery element, as it could easily have been. It is an emotionally affecting drama about the happenstance consequences of suspicion. And everything that makes the film effective comes from the fact that the plot merely happens.
Kuick brings the lion’s share of the acting to the short, and that is not a bad thing. The emotional weight is carried on her shoulders or, more accurately, her face. Her performance carries the film, which makes the trajectory of the plot all the more emotionally resonant.
Where the Woods End is a simple but visually elegant and emotionally effective drama-thriller. By no means perfect—it hinders itself with too many late-addition characters—the film is certainly better than your average “thriller.”
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)