A Young Man with High Potential is an unflinching German sexual psycho-drama more so than a thriller. Because rest assured, there are no thrills here. Concerned with an involuntarily celibate brainiac, a co-ed and a vast spectrum of confused emotions, this film becomes a very dark crime of opportunity that makes a shocking reflection on the role of morality and the world.
What’s brilliant about this film is that it introduces the main character (Piet) as a very empathetic characters. He’s a loner. He spends all his time in front of screens making calculations beyond our grasps, he holds scholastic and financial merits yet never leaves his room. His life revolves around his contained life of delivery apps, computer screens and agoraphobia. But when a beautiful girl (Klara) shows up at his door, all this is threatened. Piet tries to turn Klara away in the sake of his solitude but she’s persistent. She’s done her research, read his papers and believes he’s the only one who can help her with her thesis. Flattered and taken in as any man would with opportunity to spend time with a beautiful and smart woman, Piet obliges. For the first time his sanctum has been broken. They share interests, theories, charms and secrets over drinks. Doing what he does best, Piet calculates a possible interest from Klara. Piet does his research, asks his inept but verbose friend for advice and at a dinner celebrating their last night together Piet makes his move. Sadly, as anyone knows, logistics have never had any luck with love. Klara does not return the feelings. Piet is shattered and retreats deeper into his isolation. He cannot sleep, cannot eat and all he can do is boil in his feelings of shame. To numb it all he takes to large doses of lorazepam, a heavy sedative to knock him out. One night, feeling guilty, Klara comes over to try and clear the air but in doing so accidentally drinks one of Piet’s potions. Moments later, Piet is faced with an unconscious woman on his floor and what happens next betrays every ounce of sympathy both the audience and Klara have had for Piet.
A Young Man with High Potential states its theme very early in the film when Piet demonstrates a hypothesis of morals to Klara. “Does getting away with something decide whether or not you will do something immoral?” This is where the film hinges it’s dread. Piet’s actions become concerned with getting away with it, rather than face his crime it only escalates as he desperately tries to hide his crimes. All of which leads through some nasty sequences of body disposal and the arrival of Klara’s Mother (Amanda Plummer of Pulp Fiction fame) who questions him on the disappearance of her daughter. It becomes clear in these scenes that Piet is playing out his hypothesis from a new angle, if nothing is discovered he can assure to the face of a grieving mother that he’s done nothing wrong.
Disturbing, shocking, and unflinching A Young Man with High Potential is very special. We are put in a compromising position as an audience to both empathize and become terrified of our main character’s perspective. We experience a constant escalation and deterioration of moral quandary, all of which the film is very content to subject us to in an attempt at understanding the state of what we would deem such an “evil”. We explore the nuances of the conditions that could transpire such events and the film is intent on letting us sit in an uncomfortable moral mire that does not leave you even well after the movie is over.