After watching a man kill himself due to a business deal going south, Urs Blank decides to take a walk through the woods after the funeral. There he meets Lucille; a young woman whose bohemian lifestyle catches the interest of Urs. Eventually Lucille takes Urs on a trip out to the woods to help him find peace by going on a spiritual journey. She feeds him magic mushrooms in order to help him on his journey but the mushrooms open up something dark and terrifying within Urs.
Even though “The Dark Side of the Moon” is only Stephan Rick’s second feature film, he executed it with such precision that it seems as if he was born to make movies. Or it could be due to the years he’s spent in television or maybe it is just because he instinctively knows what is needed to construct a movie. Regardless of why, and even though it's a well executed film, the down side is that "The Dark Side of the Moon" might be a bit too perfect.
Urs Blank (Moritz Bleibtreu) is a lawyer for a pharmaceutical company and helps in the acquisitions of smaller companies. One of his latest deals results in the head of a company killing himself in front of Urs and sends him on a downward spiral. After the funeral, Urs takes to wandering the woods and stumbles across a commune of hippies and bohemian types, and there, he meets Lucille (Nora von Waldstätten). A fascinating young woman who he can’t help but be drawn to and it isn’t before long that the two are caught up in an illicit affair. Lucille decides to help out Urs find peace by taking him on a spiritual retreat. In an attempt to help him on his journey he is given magic mushrooms, but instead of a mind bending trip, the mushrooms wakeup something dark within. All of the common pieces in his life now cause him to lose control and turn into a violent monster. Is this who Urs really is or did the mushrooms poison him and are now causing him to kill those he comes in contact with?
If you were to compose a list of everything that’s needed in order for a thriller to be good, you could go down that list and check off each item while watching “The Dark Side of the Moon”. The film's mystery is driven forward by the characters but without relying on twists or red herrings, there's thick atmosphere, locations become their own characters and participate in the story, etc.. I could go on and on. “The Dark Side of the Moon” is exactly how a thriller should be made but the problem is that it might be a bit too perfect in that it lacks personality and depth. Instead of a story to become invested in that keeps you in suspense, you find yourself watching what is more of a polished product.
It’s an absurd statement — something is too perfect. While I was watching “The Dark Side of the Moon” I found myself appreciating the technical achievement of the film and its overall quality. And while I was watching the story unfold and waiting to find out if the mushrooms were indeed turning Urs into a monster, I never found myself actively engaged with the movie. “The Dark Side of the Moon” is such a well executed product that it’s relatively cold and sterile. It’s the kind of work that you can enjoy and admire for its accomplishments but it never creates a direct connection with you because it feels as if the work lacks a certain something that'll give it punch.
And again, that’s a statement that surprises me to say because there are moments in the movie that are exceptionally well done. In particular, the cinematography and the way in which they utilized the heartless city with the terrifying wilderness. There are times when the camera captures the environment so well that it makes me want to swear — it makes me want say, “That’s fucking beautiful!” Yet, after the movie was over, I never thought about it. It didn’t leave a lasting impression. Once the credits rolled all I could think was, “Well, that was a movie.” If I thought about anything after it was over, it was how the movie needed something a bit more in order to give it some weight or just something to help it standout.
It is unfortunate to say because I was never bored by the movie and I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy watching it — it hit every mark that it needed to. Everything from the story, to the locations, to the pacing and editing, to even the performances. All of that is good, even great sometimes, but it doesn’t do more than that or go further. While I watched Urs Blank explode in a fit of rage, I never felt anything. I just waited to see where the story was going to go next. The same thing with the cinematography and usage of locations. The way in which the woods are juxtaposed against the city, it seemed like there was an attempt at a theme or a metaphor but nothing was ever actually done with it. Nothing that was of consequence to the story or characters, anyway.
“The Dark Side of the Moon” is a movie any audience member will flock to when they want to see a good thriller. The technical execution is admirable and it hits every beat that’s needed in a thriller for it to be a satisfying viewing experience, but that’s all it accomplishes. There’s nothing that a viewer can invest themselves in and there’s nothing memorable about it. You’ll enjoy “The Dark Side of the Moon” while you watch it but once it’s over you’ll soon forget about it because, while it does everything to near perfection, it is missing that little something that connects the viewer to the story and characters.