If Seven Days Sunday were an American film, it would probably be some sort of push-button "after school special" affair, one that underlines all its main points and closes with a predictably simplistic message: Violence is bad. But Seven Days Sunday is instead a small German film that aims to dramatize an actual event -- and it's pretty impressive how the filmmakers never once stop to "explain" anything away. Sometimes bad people do bad things, and generally all we can do is analyze the aftermath and hope to prevent future horrors. Period.
Adam and Tommek are a pair of aimless teenagers who spend their days mired in one of Germany's more uncomfortable blue-collar neighborhoods. Although he's supposed to be some sort of altar boy, Adam is much more interested in trying to impress tough-guy Tommek. There's a cute blonde neighborhood girl who certainly seems to hold a torch for Adam, but the two boys are too busy stealing wine and robbing the locals to pay much attention to mundane things like puppy love. (Tommek definitely wants a piece of the blonde for himself, but she seems more than a little turned off by his "extreme" ways -- at the beginning, anyway.)
Boredom, frustration, and more than a little homo-erotic tension lead to some truly terrible things in this tale: Inspired by little more than pure boredom and a casual disdain for humanity, Adam and Tommek decide to spend one night in search of a murder victim. That is to say: They want to kill someone. Doesn't really matter who, which is pretty scary in itself, but these rudderless young lads clearly have a lot of anger to deal with. As the film is based on actual events, I don't think it's a spoiler to say that, yes, they do indeed kill someone -- and, yes, they do get caught.
What's most refreshing about Seven Days Sunday is how first-time director Niels Laupert has no interest in explaining the boys' motivations, nor does he make an effort to demonize the young thugs or apologize for their actions. The film is focused simply on telling the tale, and if the movie is exaggerated or "fictionalized" in any way, you can consider me duly surprised. The story unfolds in a linear and unflashy fashion, which leads one to believe the film hews pretty closely to reality -- and if that's the case then Seven Days Sunday is a pretty chilling experience. I'm sure you'd agree that "unmotivated murder" is one of the scariest kinds.
Both young actors (Ludwig Trepte as Adam, Martin Kiefer as Tommek) are excellent, and director Laupert clearly has the knack for wringing the dark, the dingy, and the desperate out of this particular community. (Some of the film's early sequences inside of a massive, deserted factory are simply fascinating to look at.) Seven Days Sunday clocks in at an efficient 80-some minutes, which is an indication of a young filmmaker who doesn't feel the need to over-tell his tale. The film is a fine balance of setting, character, tragedy, and aftermath -- and, best of all, it just gives you the ugly facts with next to nothing in the way of commentary. As if we need to be told this stuff is tragic.