Floating between dream and reality - a masterpiece
Der Gehülfe (the handyman) is a book by Swiss author Robert Walser. It is set a few years before World War One and tells the story of Josef Marti, a young man without employment, means or family who is engaged as the secretary of a self styled inventor. He lives with the inventor's family in a suburban villa near Zurich as a boarder. As a keen observer he soon discovers that the family is dysfunctional; the haughty and arrogant behavior of the inventor and his wive cover up a fast financial decline and a marriage without love or devotion.
Although Josef Marti does not receive any salary and is not well treated, he stays on. He gives the term handyman an extended meaning and dreams of himself as a "saviour" of his surrogate family. The world of Marti's dreams and the drab reality intermingle. The result is a "new dimension", not unlike in Kafka's novels and stories. (Incidentally, the world famous Czech author is reported to have been an avid fan of Walser, his contemporary. They seem to have had a similar sense of humor)
I tip my hat to the makers of this movie. They succeeded in transforming a rather complicated story into a haunting succession of images. Most of it (if not all) was shot on location, and together with the costumes and the props it gives a real, far from glossy feel of the time the story is set in. The quite surrealistic dream sequences are partly also shot on location and fit in very well. One vision gets to Marti in an old movie theatre. It is filmed and acted like an old two reeler - very meaningful, very moving and very effective.
Actually, Der Gehülfe explains my part of the world more than any other film (documentaries excepted). Although the story is set in the past, it shows real places that still exist. The action cleverly uncovers much of the social and emotional disorientation and insecurities that seem so typical for my people (a basically classless society since we can remember) and persist up to the present.
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