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pretty much the only German film of the 2010s worth watching
If you've seen almost any German film in the past five years during a film festival that wasn't genre specific, you may have asked yourself: 'Geez, are Germans really THAT boring?' Well, be my guest if you did. And if you've seen a domestic German film in cinemas, you may have wondered: 'Geez, why are German actors so unfunny and stiff?' The answer to question No. 1 is: The German film industry runs on public funding and collaborations with public broadcasting stations, and the decisions there are made by politically affiliated men (and very few women) in their 60s. The answer to question No. 2 is: Acting schools are also usually public, teach drama courses geared for the stage, have a curriculum reduced to 18th century dramas and the occasional existentialist play which was hip in the 60s. Hence the gender stereotypes, old-fashioned themes and language, and - frequently - lack of coherence. Until 'Fack ju Göthe', that is (and apart from a few films by Faith Akın).
For this topic-wise not really interesting school comedy, following pretty much a well-trodden formula, not only became the commercially most successful German film of the decade - it's actually funny. The leads are actually hot. The acting's actually geared to the camera and not an imaginary stage. No matter how rampant the stereotypes may be, they do work with the story. No matter how silly the youth slang comes along at times, it is real urban speech. No matter how predictable the underlying social message may be - migrants, believe in yourselves, then you won't end up in jail -, it's not heavy-handed and doesn't kill the jokes.
That's because the writers, producers and the director are migrants themselves, and made this movie for an actual audience and not a public funding board. So not only is the enormous success of 'Fack ju Göthe' well deserved - it feels like a warm shower in an otherwise dreary, pseudo-intellectual German cultural atmosphere. If you want to watch a contemporary German film to see how people there tick, there isn't any alternative right now. Just don't expect anything super original or clever, just pretty solid entertainment - if the subtitles get the jokes right, or - better yet - you understand a teensy bit of German.
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