'Liegen lernen', which could be translated as learning to lie down, is the story of Helmut, played rather dryly by Fabian Busch, during that period of life when one tries out relationships until one decides what one wants from life. Although the political developments leading up to and after the unification of Germany are kept audibly and visibly as a recurring feature, they are only a backdrop to the tale, and do not form or even affect the plot.
Because of the dryness of Helmut's character, the voice-overs throughout the film are necessary for the viewer to get an insight into his personality and development. Whilst there have been many more interesting lead characters, the realistic handling of the feelings and conflicts of this crucial phase of personality building makes the unfolding of the plot somewhat fascinating.
The same story with identical characters of both sexes could have been told in any city or larger town in any modern country, but at least the changes in East Berlin add an extra deepness to the drama of economic progress, which in the context of this film are kept even more moderate as I personally have experienced in West Germany.
The film is directed by Hendrik Handloegten, but, as in many Rainer Werner Fassbinder films, especially 'Berlin Alexanderplatz', whilst the male roles are convincing, the female roles do not quite seem to fit into the background in which the events take place. They are fun to watch, but simply not realistic enough to be convincing. Britta, played by Susanne Bormann, lights up the screen and enhances the entertainment value even more than Gisela, played by Fritzi Haberlandt, and the others.
The pace is sometimes too slow, and, although the female characters are in some ways too extreme, in other aspects they fail to generate as much contrast as those in 'L'Homme qui aimait les femmes' or even 'Dr T and the Women'. However, this is understandable because this film is not attempting to portray the infinite variety of the female character in modern society, merely following a particular man's life in an important period of his life.
The film is entertaining, but fails to make the most of the dramatic possibilities.
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