A low-key drama about a disturbed young man whose reality shifts between the present and the past — specifically the worlds of the great Russian writers Gogol and Dostoyevsky and the deserted streets of Berlin by night, the 'prisoner' of St Petersburg is jack (Noah Taylor) who arrives in Berlin penniless, dazed and confused, armed only with quotes from his literary heroes and a head full of delusions. Is this the response of a young Australian confronting Berlin's (and Europe's) awesome past?
Upon meeting two young women, the enigmatic Elena (Solveig Dommartin, last seen in Wings of Desire) and the sad-eyed Johanna (Katja Teichmann), the three of them spend a long night wandering the streets of Berlin in search of many things — like a good strong drink, a train that won't take them around in circles, and a truck to take Jack back over the border. Eventually, tentatively, they escape from their personal hells and private prisons — Elena from her fear of loving, Johanna from her need to be loved, and Jack from his 'St Petersburg fever'.
With his third feature, Ian Pringle confirms his maverick status within the Australian film industry, again shooting overseas and again daring to suggest (as in Wrong World, MFF '85) that as Australians we may have a place in some larger global community, rather than just the backyards of Balwyn or the meanstreets of St Kilda.
Pringle's latest film is both produced and shot in Germany, and imbued with an unmistakably European sensibility. Not that their isn't considerable Australian input — Pringle's regular collaborators Ray Argall and Daniel Scharf respectively shot and produced the film, from a script by young Australian writer Michael Wren, and a crew including fellow Australians Peca Lawson (production designer) and actor Noah Taylor.
They have fashioned a film with modest ambitions, made on a very low budget over 22 cold Berlin nights The result is the first Australian-West German co-production, and an enigmatic encounter (on a variety of levels) between wo eras, two cultures.