Mystery thrillers are always engaging film lovers, and the new film “Immerstill” falls right into that category. With gorgeous cinematography and an arresting plot, the film guarantees an interesting watch. Director Eva Spreitzhofer adapts the Roman Klementovich’s novel of the same name into a bleak but beautiful film. With strong performances and feminist undertones, the film weaves an interesting tapestry involving several characters, all of whom are living their lives in Immerstill, a small town in Austria, when suddenly the town’s seemingly normal way of life is made to go under intense scrutiny after the disappearance of three young girls.
Lisa Returns To Immerstill
The film begins with the return of Lisa to her hometown. She lost her mother a couple of years ago and has her dad and younger sister staying in Immerstill while she runs her bakery in Vienna. The reason for her return seems to be the disappearance of her younger sister Marie and Natalie, Marie’s friend, who was last seen at a party the day before. The whole of Austria is in a celebratory mood, owing to the annual Carnival. Marie and Natalie, before their disappearance, called Lisa, asking her to come to Immerstill and help them in their search for Kathi, another resident who has allegedly eloped with the town’s notorious casanova Markus, but Marie suspects foul play as she is certain Kathi couldn’t have gone away with Markus. Lisa, disinterested in her theory, declines to help and lies about her immense workload in the bakery being the reason for not visiting Immerstill, while her bakery is seen to be devoid of customers.
Having lied, she returns with a heavy heart now that both of them have disappeared. Her father, Valentin, greets her and seems worn out but is certain that Marie and Natalie will turn up shortly. Hannelore, Valentin’s sister, comes to visit Lisa, and seeing her brother’s pretty relaxed attitude brings up another such disappearance: that of Renate, the wife of another Immerstill resident, Hubert Lipus. Valentin doesn’t quite relate and questions Hannelore’s logic as to how Kathi’s eloping with Markus and Renate leaving his husband can be equated with Marie and Natalie wandering off after the Carnival party, probably to have some fun. Hannelore pressures Valentin to go to the police for the sake of Natalie, whose parents had entrusted him with her guardianship. Valentin storms off into his garage, leaving Hannelore and Lisa on their own. They visit the police station themselves and find a sign on the door saying, “closed to the public during Carnival.” They go in anyway and find a woman officer present there. Hannelore is pleasantly surprised to find a woman in the police force, owing to Immerstill’s negligent attitude towards females in general. The officer tells them that others have gone to the pub to celebrate. Hannelore and Lisa visit the pub, where Lisa asks about Marie and Natalie’s whereabouts. We get introduced to Patrick and his father, both working in the police. Lisa tells Patrick she wants to file missing persons report for them. Patrick discourages her and tells her that not enough time has passed to call this a ‘missing persons’ case. Lisa turns her attention towards Kathi’s mother, Andrea, who works as the bartender at the pub. Andrea shows Lisa the text messages sent by Kathi. According to the messages, Kathi and Markus have eloped to New Zealand. Andrea appears to have no stress to Lisa but rather appears quite pleased.
Lisa bumps into Anna, Markus’s sister, and sees a video of the previous night’s party where Hubert tried to grope Marie and Natalie, building up suspicion against him. She also learns that Marie and Natalie had started a campaign to start a search for Kathi. They had hacked into Immerstill’s online tourist site and defamed several residents and police officers. Sensing some cause for concern, Lisa visits Patrick’s home, where we learn they both were in a relationship together, which ended because Patrick didn’t move from Immerstill to Vienna with Lisa. She urges Patrick to do something about the case. Patrick points towards the red tape involved, which makes Lisa furious, and she leaves. Upon reaching home, Lisa is attacked by someone in the dark. Hubert’s dog saves her, and Valentin sees Hubert standing at a distance.
The morning after, Patrick visits Lisa and inquires about her attacker. After Lisa comes to know that Hubert was standing at the time of her attack, she suspects him of having seen something. She urges Patrick to ask him. Patrick agrees and asks him standard questions. Lisa, disappointed with Patrick’s approach, asks him to search Hubert’s basement, but Patrick denies it, saying that without a search warrant, it would be illegal. With suspicion already built up against Hubert, Lisa visits Hannelore and shows her the video of the party, making her suspicious as well. Hannelore shares her own case of suspicion against Hubert, one involving his wife’s disappearance. Both of them decide to take matters into their own hands and visit Hubert. Meanwhile, Patrick organizes a search operation to find the missing people. Lisa politely asks Hubert some questions while Hannelore, in lieu of going to the bathroom, tries to search his basement in hopes of finding some clues about Marie and Natalie. She finds the door to the basement to be locked, and the plan is thwarted.
They reach the search party, and Lisa asks Markus’s mother if she has any news about Kathi or Patrick. She says the same things as were told to Lisa by Kathi’s mother. Anna pulls Lisa aside and warns her to stay away from Patrick. Lisa advises her to relax as she is not after him and also cautions her to stay away from Patrick as he is not interested in an urban girl.
A Dead Body Is Found
The search party, comprising the police and the residents, begins their search for Marie and Natalie. Andrea meets Lisa during the search and reveals that she and Lisa’s father, Valentin, are in a relationship. Lisa is amused by this revelation. Just before it gets dark, Patrick discovers Natalie’s dead body floating in the river, sending shock waves across the small town of Immerstill. Everybody begins to assume the worst now with Marie and also begins to imagine worse fates for Kathi and Markus as well. The town, which was in a celebratory spirit, suddenly finds itself in shock and mourning.
Lisa searches Marie’s room and finds a diary. Patrick arrives to search Marie’s room as Natalie last slept in hers. Lisa hides the diary with her and asks Patrick to search Hubert’s basement, but Patrick resists. Instead, He makes a list of people to interrogate and first brings in Markus’s parents for questioning. He interrogates them about his whereabouts and receives the standard answer at first. Trying to clear all doubts, Markus’s father spills the beans by saying all girls love Markus, including Anna, his own sister. He casually remarks that he once caught her in bed with him. The facade breaks, and Traude, Markus’s mother, breaks down, giving away the fact that there may be a motive for Markus to kill Natalie. It is revealed to us that Markus had assaulted Natalie earlier, and she wanted to press charges, but her dad made her withdraw. Traude further adds that Markus is an evil man who pushed her down the stairs before leaving. She is worried he might do something terrible to Kathi or Marie. Patrick orders surveillance of Markus’s cell phone.
Meanwhile, Lisa finally reads Marie’s diary and finds out that Kathi and Marie were in love, so it becomes clear to Lisa that Kathi couldn’t have voluntarily left with Markus and that the text messages people have received from Kathi and Markus about having eloped to New Zealand are fake or tampered with. She shares this discovery with Valentin, but instead of helping, he starts blaming her for complicating the case. Lisa notices a hairband in his garage and picks it up, without him noticing.
On her way to the police station, she spots Anna. She goes to meet her with the newfound facts about Kathi and Marie being in a relationship. Anna confesses that she knew, as she heard from one of Markus’s friends, that he would get Kathi into bed with him even though she is a lesbian. Anna is guilt-ridden as she withheld this from Patrick, which might have gotten Kathi and Natalie killed. Anna recounts the incident where Markus sexually assaulted her. Lisa calms Anna down, and a bond forms between them. Anna confesses another thing: that it was she who attacked Lisa out of jealousy as she thought Lisa was trying to steal Patrick away from her.
Back at the police station, Natalie’s autopsy report arrives. The cause of death is revealed to be drowning, but Natalie also had a cracked skull. Lisa arrives with Anna, who presses charges against Markus for rape. Lisa submits the hairband found to the police in the hope it helps in some way find Kathi. She receives a phone call from Hannelore telling her that Hubert has left his house and they can break in and search his basement. She leaves the police station, after which Patrick receives the results of the surveillance on Markus’s phone. The location received is Valentin’s Garage. Lisa and Hannelore reach Hubert’s place and break in. They go into the basement and find Renate’s clothes and passport. Lisa calls Patrick to come to see the newfound evidence. Hubert arrives and notices the break-in. He takes an ax, but as soon as he finds out it is Lisa and Hannelore who have broken in, Patrick arrives and takes him into custody.
Hubert is interrogated, and Hannelore criticizes the police for not taking an interest in finding Renate and believing Hubert instead. Patrick receives new information that Marie and Natalie were last seen leaving the party with Hannelore. The police receive a phone call that the missing girl, Marie, has been found and is currently admitted to a nearby hospital. Relieved and concerned, Lisa visits the hospital alongside Patrick to see Marie and asks her where she has been and how she set herself free. Marie seems to be in a state of shock and avoids answering the questions.
Lisa visits Hannelore’s place and searches for Kathi, quite certain she is there. Lisa asked Hannelore why she had Marie and Natalie locked up. Hannelore explains that Marie was pining for Kathi, and as no one was looking for her after she disappeared, she came to her for help. Hannelore and Marie plan to disappear on their own accord for there to be an investigation into Kathi’s disappearance. Natalie gets uncomfortable with this plan and decides to leave. Hannelore resists, and in a scuffle, Natalie is struck dead by Hannelore. Lisa starts to dial for Patrick, and as soon as Hannelore begins to stop her from calling, Patrick arrives and arrests her. She cries hysterically that if the police had looked for Renate in the first place, the tragedy with Natalie wouldn’t have occurred.
A day passes, and Lisa brings Marie back to their home and tells her she will take her back to Vienna. They find an alarmed Patrick outside the garage. He tells Lisa that the hairband she found in her dad’s garage belonged to Kathi but had Markus’s blood on it, and he goes in. Lisa and Marie follow a passage only to find Kathi there, safe and secure. Marie hugs Kathi as Valentin and Andrea enter the room. Valentin explains that he saw Markus assaulting Kathi, and in an attempt to get him off of her, Kathi hit him on the head, after which Markus died. Thinking Kathi’s life would be ruined if this got out to the police, he disposed of Markus’s body and, with Andrea’s cooperation, fabricated the text messages, making it look like Kathi had eloped with Markus to New Zealand.
‘Immerstill’ Ending Explained – Why Did Hannelore Kill Natalie?
Hannelore was a very close friend of Renate’s. After her disappearance, she was distraught, and when the officials showed the same negligent behavior towards Kathi’s sudden vanishing, she came up with a plan with Marie’s help. Marie, who was in love with Kathi, decides that if she and Natalie were to vanish suddenly, people would start to look for them and maybe pay more attention to Kathi’s disappearance as well. The plan didn’t go well, as Natalie didn’t take well to the voluntary banishment. When she started to leave, Hannelore stopped her, as she thought this was her only chance to make the authorities look into Renate’s disappearance. In a scuffle, she accidentally kills Natalie and dumps her body into the river. Marie goes into shock after this, breaks free later, and winds up in the hospital.
Thus, “Immerstill” is a feminist tale with simmering issues of women’s oppression, abuse, and overall negligence by society at large, burning under the scenic beauty of the traditional small town that burst open suddenly, taking everyone into their whirl, and making them face the rotten side of traditional small-town values, suggesting vehemently that there is need for an overhaul to ensure peace.