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Werner Schroeter has fashioned a compelling personal epic about an 18-year-old Sicilian, Nicola, who emigrates to Germany. There he works in a Volkswagen factory, falls in love, and painfully adjusts to a new and incomprehensible way of life. When he realizes his girlfriend is just using him, Nicola strikes out in violence at her two boyfriends. Like BREAD AND CHOCOLATE, the film is about the estrangement of the outsider in what is seen as an alien and hostile society. The only difference is that this not a comedy. It also bears some similarities to Visconti's ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS, with its theme of the corrupting influence of modern industrial society. The film is neatly divided into two parts, the Sicilian half, with its sunny, warm photographic style and the German half, which becomes grayish and grim. Nicola Zarbo is fine in the lead role among a cast of mostly unknown performers. At three hours the film is a trifle too long but thoroughly involving.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Palermo oder Wolfsburg" or also known as "Palermo or Wolfsburg" is a co-production between West Germany and Switzerland from 1980, so this film had its 35th anniversary last year. The dominant languages, fittingly with the title, in here are German and Italian. The director is Werner Schroeter and he is also one of the writers here. Lead actor is Nicola Zarbo and he never played in a film again before or after that and while I did not think he was too bad, I also was not really impressed by his performance. This film runs for almost three hours and with such a runtime it is definitely among Schroeter's longest works, not just among his more known films. And with such a duration, there is of course also a big supporting cast. It includes names you may have seen in Rainer Werner Fassbinder films such as Harry Baer and Magdalena Montezuma, but also Otto Sander for example, who received a German Film Award nomination for his performance here. He mostly shines in the last third of a film, which is basically a courtroom drama with Sander playing the main prosecutor. This is also where the film is at its most serious as it is about murder. The first 2 hours were no light material at all, but I still felt they were lighter than the last hour. After having watched some of Schroeter's stuff, I must say that this is definitely among those films from the director that I liked more than most others. But the number of stars I gave it still tells you that I am not really a fan of the director. I just felt this one here was less theatrical and actually worked on many occasions as a work you can watch at a screen. Other works from the filmmakers basically feel like theater recordings and make little sense from a cinematic perspective. But this one here still drags a lot and has many lengths and the acting never felt really too convincing to me unfortunately. At under two hours, I may have given it a thumbs-up, but at this actual runtime I really cannot recommend the watch. Watch something else instead.
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