Opening 24 Sep 2020
Wiebke (Nina Hoss) is a police horse trainer who owns a large farm in the countryside. When she adopts her second child named Raya (Katerina Lipovskab), it quickly becomes obvious that the traumatized 5-year-old is severely disturbed. As Raya’s behavior becomes more and more violent and dangerous, Wiebke refuses to give up on the child and becomes willing to do whatever it takes to cure her. Even when all of the professionals tell her that she must protect herself and her other adopted daughter, Wiebke refuses, convinced that she alone has the ability to bring peace to Raya. However, how much is she willing to sacrifice to make this dream a reality?
In the first act, it is determined that Raya is an extremely disturbed child with an empathy disorder which will make it impossible for her to ever live a normal life. Wiebke’s denial is understandable, as she has already grown to love the idea of the sweet girl she expected Raya to be. Yet, when Raya’s actions begin to threaten the whole family, Wiebke’s refusal to accept reality leads the story down darker and unrealistic paths. While it could have been an interesting examination of tragedy of extreme mental illnesses and the long-term harm it causes families, instead director/screenwriter Katrin Gebbe decided to take a different tact, where Wiebke’s astounding lack of sense is somehow coded as being the correct decision in the end.
Despite being a story which takes place firmly in the real world (unlike Hereditary  which involves a similar disturbed child but with supernatural elements), Pelikanblut cops out by giving legitimacy to the unscientific measures Wiebke ultimately resorts to. This is both disappointing from a narrative point of view as well as disturbing to anyone with even a remote understanding of psychology. Gebbe legitimizes the use of such practices on mentally ill children and considering we live in a world where exorcisms and occult ceremonies are sometimes used to try and cure children instead of relying on science, often to the detriment or death of the child, it is extremely upsetting to see such actions work in a film simply to meet some sort of symbolic or narrative goal. While there was some potential in the beginning of Pelikanblut, it is ultimately a failure with potentially dangerous connotations. (Rose Finlay)