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Effigy – Poison and the City film review

★★★

Directed by #UdoFlohr

Written by Udo Flohr, #PeerMeter, #AntoniaRoeller

Starring #SuzanAnbeh, #ElisaThiemann, #ChristophGottschalch

Indie Film Review by #HannahSayer


Effigy – Poison and the City follows the forensic investigation against real life serial killer

#GescheGottfried, who was found guilty of murdering fifteen people by arsenic poisoning and is considered to be one of the first female serial killers. Set in the German port city of Bremen and inspired by Peer Meter’s stage play Die Verhöre der Gesche Gottfried, the film follows two women – one who wants to work for the law and one who has defied the law.


Senator Droste, played by Christoph Gottschalch, hires a new law clerk Cato Böhmer, played by Elisa Thiemann. It is uncommon for women to be working within this workplace setting in the nineteenth century and even though Böhmer has demonstrable experience in the field, she is up against her male peers who look down upon her skills and knowledge of the profession. A medical investigation is brought to the attention of Senator Droste and his team, as a piece of food is brought in which is covered in a mysterious white powder. The food has come from the house which is looked after by housekeeper Gesche Gottfried, played by Suzan Anbeh. The powder turns out to be arsenic, and the film follows the investigation as more instances of poisoning occur to those in Gottfried’s circle of acquaintances. Gottfried is a master of manipulation, as she has the whole town convinced that she is caring for the sick, when in reality she is the reason behind the mysterious deaths. The film is reminiscent of the modern day police procedural, as Senator Droste and Cato Böhmer try to solve the mystery of “Bremen’s poisoner”.


The musical score, which is composed, orchestrated and conducted by Nic Raine and performed by The City of Prague’s Philharmonic Orchestra, is effective in creating an atmospheric tension which is haunting and chilling as the narrative unfolds, and the horrific realisation of how many Gottfried has murdered dawns on the characters and the viewer. The structure relies heavily on long scenes of dialogue between the characters, which at times can feel dull and drawn out. However, the acting is particularly strong and the film’s overarching message is a powerful one, as the narrative examines how both Gesche Gottfried and Cato Böhmer are judged and face sexism, even while living out extremely different lives.


In 1828, sand from the Sahara Desert which was transported to the north of Germany by the wind caused blood to literally rain down from the sky. In Effigy –Poison and the City, this event is used as a potent image to signify that Gottfried’s reign as the poisoner of Bremen has come to an end, and reinforces how much despair and destruction she has caused in her wake.

Watch the official movie trailer for Effigy - Poison and the City below.