In the realm of true-life stories that could be great film translations, there don’t come many with stronger claims to the big screen treatment than the story of Adam and Tommek, two 16 year-old Polish boys who in 1996 went on a spree resulting in one severe stabbing and a murder.
Ludwig Trepte is Adam, introduced as a fit young man completing his morning exercises before going to church to serve as an altar boy. He lives with his grandmother, an intensely religious woman who works night-shifts, and together their existence is meagre. Adam’s friend Tommek (Martin Kiefer) is covered in self-drawn tattoos, talks tougher than he is, and hopes to steal the affections of Adam’s girl Sarah (Jil Funke). A combination of booze, drugs, peer pressure, bravado and boredom will lead Adam and Tommek to head out into the night, with tragic consequences.
Seven Days Sunday is set in a council estate, and the picture presented is of a bleak, miserable part of town with little to offer other than vandalism and substance abuse. Sarah is starting full-time work in a factory and Adam scoffs at her plan, but has none of his own. The film offers many explanations for how such a crime could occur, and yet none seems adequate when confronted by the re-enactment on screen.
Trepte is excellent in the lead, allowing his turn to be elusive and yet powerful. One never knows whether he is a leader or a follower, and the ambiguity encourages great intrigue. Kiefer is perhaps a little more blunt, with his performance at times bordering on self-conscious caricature. As a screen combination, though, they succeed in creating a relationship that is both inter-dependent and toxic.
For those of us not aware of the details of the real-life events, the use of a non-linear structure and voiceover with a retrospective point-of-view may actually diminish the film’s impact, as the gradual building to the central acts is full of tension. For others, however, it seems reasonable to acknowledge their understanding of these crimes upfront before focussing on any possible explanation.
There are scenes of absolute brutality within Seven Days Sunday, and those with a gentle dispostion may find some sequences hard to watch. A modicum of respect for the victims is maintained, however, with light and shadow utilised to ensure the focus is on the perpetrators. Seven Days Sunday is a necessarily bleak retelling of an horrific real-life occurrence, that like many films of its nature raises several possible explanations without ever being able to settle on one. Although it is not without flaws, it can still be confidently recommended.Rating: