It's 1828 and for all intents and purposes, modern society of the day might as well have been one from a completely alien planet - perhaps even one located in another universe altogether. It's not like anyone reading this would or will be surprised by that fact; we all know how different the world was - even as recent as the mid-nineteen hundreds. Seeing it living and breathing onscreen however, never ceases to entertain me. It's not so much the clothing or technology that engulfs my senses, rather the overall attitude, and politics of the day. Whenever watching a period piece, such as "Effigy - Poison and the City" I often find myself wondering how many of our practices and traditions of today stem from those early days of what is often called civilized society. It's also refreshing to see how filmmakers and writers include the gradual changes to our social ecosystem, such as the place of a woman in society, from then to now. Those seeds that even today, are continuing to grow. In this film, the character of Cato Böhmer is a progressive one - for the time. She also happens to be instrumental in solving a murder case that takes the lives of at least ten people - and not just adults.
During an investigation involving what we would now consider a serial killer, it's come out that the prime suspect seems to enjoy using poison - introduced into food and drink. Arsenic, in particular something called "mouse butter." This concoction is a combination of arsenic and lard, and as far as most people in the film know, can only be obtained from a pharmacist. That turns out not to be the case, and "mouse butter" apparently can be purchased at the store along with veggies and ham. The prime suspect is a widower named Gesche Gottfried and during what was at first considered a routine investigation, that would probably amount to nothing, turns into the uncovering of almost a dozen victims. Of course, Gesche denies - and as it turns out, she is most definitely a very smart woman - but so is Cato Böhmer, and letting this murderous widow get away with multiple homicides is not in the cards.
Alongside the murderous main plot, we also have sub-stories that more than anything, complement the characters and add depth to the world in which they live. Trains versus boats, politics, deceptions, and even some excellent scenes involving the forensic technologies of the day. Udo Flohr doesn't skip over anything that could add more life to his period film and with that said, the costumes and props are really something I enjoyed when watching this flick. Come for the murder mystery, stay for everything else.
When it comes to the technical aspects, "Effigy - Poison and the City" looks and sounds pretty darn great. Flohr and the crew have kept things simple but detailed. There's nothing ridiculously complex going on technically, allowing viewers to focus on what's important. The story being told, and the characters themselves. Speaking of the cast, Udo Flohr's troupe just reek of natural talent and experience, allowing "Effigy - Poison and the City" to climb another notch on the awesomeness scale.
The two leading ladies in question both own the screen with what seems like no effort at all. Polar opposites that together make a whole, entertaining movie. But what makes this film especially goos, is that the supporting cast is also top-notch. I can think of no performance that stood out as awkward or overly-dramatic - something not often seen in independent film. Again, all the players and pieces are in place and the bottom line is that if you're into period movies, that also happen to be thrillers, I see no reason not to check this movie out.
At the end of the day, "Effigy - Poison and the City" hit all the bells at the correct times. It's not one hundred percent perfect, and at times may feel like every single person in the movie has money to burn - because of their quarters and clothing, but this flick is still good enough to warrant an impressive four stars. To be honest, I was surprised more than a little by how much I actually enjoyed this - and think I won't be the only one. Did I mention that this is also based on a true story? Well reader, it is... making "Effigy - Poison and the City" even more interesting, and possibly a little scarier.