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Run for Your Life: Benjamin Heisenberg’s “The Robber”

Run for Your Life: Benjamin Heisenberg's "The Robber"

The protagonist of the Austrian film The Robber, the based-on-a-true-story first feature by Benjamin Heisenberg (yes, of those Heisenbergs), does two things, and pretty much two things only: he runs long distances and he robs banks. The nearest thing to a straight explanation we get for why Johann Rettenberger (Andreas Lust) so compulsively does the latter—with a latex mask, a shotgun, and an empty gym bag, and sometimes using a radio-blasting stolen car as a getaway vehicle, but just as often relying on his own two feet—comes when he gets home from a particularly long day of marathon training and sticking up strip-mall bank branches. He downloads the information from the heart monitor that has been strapped to his chest to his computer; an enormous spike appears right in the middle of the graph. Johann, an ex-con with no occupation (he tells his parole officer he’s unable to find work that fits around his training schedule), is nonetheless too compulsive and reckless for his robberies to just be about the money; the heart-rate graph confirms the robbing as a pure adrenaline rush, a physical addiction, a way of bringing his body up against its absolute limit. He also appears to enjoy flouting social conventions of less consequence (he bypasses a post-movie traffic jam by driving right through the middle of a small park), so we can surmise that he likely carries out his transgressive behavior without a hint of guilt. Read Benjamin Mercer’s review of The Robber.

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