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{Movie Review} Human Factors: Not Your Typical Home Invasion Thriller

Human Factors
Courtesy of Dark Star Pictures

At first, Human Factors comes across like another Funny Games or The Strangers, a home invasion movie that focuses on a well-to-do family. Yet, the multi-language thriller soon morphs into its own original concept. Italian-born director Ronny Trocker created a film that frequently shifts perspective. It circles back to the moment someone may or may not have entered the family’s vacation home. We’ve seen plenty of home invasion movies before, but never one quite like this.

A Creative and Fluid Point of View

The film’s uniqueness is established immediately. It takes quite a few minutes until the title card appears. Leading up to that, the camera tracks through the various rooms of the house. At times, it inches close to the family members. It’s like we’re moving through the rooms from the perspective of someone or something foreign to the family. It’s an unsettling opening, for sure.

However, the story is less concerned with overt horror and more focused on a well-off family’s problems. Parents Nina (Sabine Timoteo) and Jan (Mark Waschke) run an advertising agency. Nina is none too happy when she reads in the paper that Jan has taken on a new client, a political party. It’s unclear if the party is a far-right populist organization, but there are more than enough hints. In a meeting Jan attends, one of the organizers comments that people no longer care about empathy. It’s time to be more forceful with the messaging.

And while the film is never heavy-handed, Europe’s growing far-right populism factors into the film in subtle ways. There are short scenes where news filters in on the radio or TV. Meanwhile, when Nina talks to the police about the invader, the cop asks her which language they spoke. She’s unsure, so he writes down they were foreigners. Yet, he has no evidence that’s true. But it’s immediately his default position.

Jan and Nina’s kids, meanwhile, Emma (Jule Hermann) and Max (Wanja Valentin Kube), seem rather disconnected from their family, maybe because of Jan and Nina’s marital problems. Max obsesses over his pet rat Zorro, especially after it escapes during the invasion. Emma zones out on music videos or attends parties where she chugs whiskey and Coke.

Human Factors Unique Narrative Elements

The way Trocker handles the narrative here really makes this film stand on its own. The movie frequently circles back to the moments before, during, and after the invasion. Each time, we see the events play out from another character’s perspective. We even get a few moments from Zorro’s point of view. Jan and Nina’s problems are compounded after it’s clear he doesn’t really believe her, even if she heard a door slam and voices echo in the hallway.

While it may be easier to play the Xenophobic card and blame others for their problems, it’s clear the family needs to pull together and look inward. They should focus on what’s going on at home instead. This is a family disconnected from each other. It’s not any foreigner that causes their problems, despite the panic spread by far-right, Trump-like politicians or news reports.

Human Factors is a fascinating film. It contains relatively no bloodshed or violence. However, it uses the premise of a home invasion to explore the inner workings of a family, including their myriad of issues. Trocker seamlessly shifts from one point of view to the next, giving us many ways to look at a single incident that brings a family’s real issues to the surface. While it’s easy to prop up this film as Haneke-like, the clever storytelling and narrative tricks earn this film its own merits and accolades.