The film is as tense as any recent supernatural horror, but its tension is organic: it's one somebody's felt, rather than plucked out of the air or otherwise cooked up. For a good while, that tension derives from no more than the series of phonecalls Conny puts into Lola, interrupting her sis just as she's getting down to sealing a deal or making out with her galpal. (A simple ringtone can be enough to send a shiver down your spine.) Then: a perspective shift that suggests nothing we've seen in the first 45 minutes is entirely as it seemed. That wrenching twist is both consolidated and to some degree concealed by the refrigerated realism Kreutzer is trading in, the close attention she pays to the callous, offhand, forever impersonal detail of modern office life. You likely won't notice that something's awry - until it becomes clear, come the film's second half, that it is. (I suspect employees at certain less than ethical companies will have experienced the same creeping, then sinking feeling.) Casting Pachner was the masterstroke: the experience of watching The Ground Beneath My Feet is that of watching a tightly sculpted, initially impermeable block of ice, and starting to notice the cracks appearing in that cool facade. Kreutzer's framing and cutting do just about everything they can to pile the pressure on. She makes masterly use of another patient on Conny's ward to undermine Lola's sense of reality; by the distinctive closing credits, with their subliminal flashes of another story entirely, it is as though the film itself has cracked along with everything else. (More broken boundaries.) What starts along Toni Erdmann lines thus ends up like a mash-up between that movie and its director's previous The Forest for the Trees, about a teacher going over the edge. Yet it also struck me that there's a clear correlation between these corridors of corporate power and the hallways and between-spaces Polanski so memorably filmed in Repulsion: Kreutzer, announcing herself here as a major talent, has an eye for how the insecurities of the professional realm have started to creep into our private lives.
The Ground Beneath My Feet is available to stream from today via MUBI UK.