A housing board rules over a dystopia in the off-kilter satire “We Might as Well Be Dead.” The film follows Anna (Ioana Iacob), a single mother and security guard whose role in her high rise home is to interview and introduce candidates for new housing. The film doesn’t specify what kind of apocalypse has made residency in the high rise so prestigious, but new applicants treat their adjudication as a life or death matter, begging on their hands and knees for sanctuary.
Anna wasn’t born in the community she now calls both home and employer. She isn’t a perfect citizen by the board’s standards. She’s a single mother and her daughter, Iris (Pola Geiger), has started to show signs of buckling under the closed society’s pressure, hiding full time in the apartment bathroom. Anna’s tenuous position in the building is threatened further when a neighbor’s dog goes missing, and an atmosphere of paranoia settles over the community. Anna tries to convince her neighbors that the dog’s absence is an accident rather than a conspiracy, but her efforts are met with increasing frenzy, and the mob soon begins to turn on her.
The director, Natalia Sinelnikova, draws out a sense of dread through canted angles and harsh lighting. The camera is often placed below the faces of the actors, peering up at them from perspectives that seem off-kilter. When the camera pulls back, the inhabitants of the high rise seem crowded into doorways and long dwindling halls. The images are artfully crafted, but the narrative lacks momentum. The film flirts with themes of surveillance and immigrant anxieties, but its allegoric ambitions are continually thwarted by yet another neighborly grievance.
We Might as Well Be Dead
Not rated. In German, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. In theaters.