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I have followed the career of Oliver Dittrich for roughly 20 years now, since his rise to fame in the early 90s on the German version of Saturday night live. Back then, he partnered frequently in comedy sketches (and in a music duo) with Wigald Boning, who was initially my favorite of the duo. But things have changed considerably since then and the reason is Dittrich permanently adding quality to his résumé. He's given good supporting performances in several German comedy films including Otto Waalkes' Ocean's Eleven parodies or Kalkofe's delightful version of Edgar Wallace's Hexer movies and he's even played historically significant serious characters like Joseph Goebbels. However, he's usually best when he portrays characters that mix comedic and serious approaches, like in the criminally underseen Blind Date episodes together with Anke Engelke and, of course, in his career-defining performance as Dittsche.
That's why I was thrilled to see him headline another movie which seems to be going this very direction in David Dietl's first feature film "König von Deutschland" (King of Germany / King Ordinary). David Dietl is the son of writer-director Helmut Dietl, the man behind notable German 1990s films such as Rossini, Schtonk! and Late Show. And more than twenty years after Father Dietl got a truly mesmerizing performance out of Götz George in Schtonk!, his offspring manages the same with Dittrich.
To me, this movie felt clearly inspired by Peter Weir's The Truman Show. The lead character leads a seemingly normal life, but as it progresses, we soon find out things are not the way they seem. Not at all. While it's not cameras that are on Dittrich, it's still eyes he'd rather have look somewhere else when he proves the most average guy in the country. As a result thereof he's seen as a truly influential person by a company of marketing experts who can interpret his preferences and opinions as spot-on for the majority of the whole country. He becomes as priceless to them as they become ruthless to him. Also, not only the whole "rat in a test lab"-atmosphere felt incredibly similar, but also the women in his life can be linked to those from Truman Burbank's, i.e. Veronica Ferres' to Laura Linney's character and Katrin Bauerfeind to Natascha McElhone's.
I thought the first half of the film was decent, but it really gained steam the moment that Dittrich's character realized what was really going on around him. Everything that ensues when he attempts to break free from his invisible chains was nothing short of a wonderful movie experience to me. And that includes the ending as well. If there was any flaw at all, it was basically everything that revolved around his son. I did not really like the whole music making plot and while I felt that the way the young actor portrayed the ambiguous relationship with his father and the antipathy towards mediocrity sometimes pretty convincingly, it was just pretty much the opposite in other scenes, such as when they return from the gas station his meltdown felt almost cringe-worthy. The role had a lot to offer, maybe second to the lead role, and the film may have been even better with a different casting decision.
It's still just a minor flaw and I totally recommend the movie and, as with the connections mentioned before, I'm positive you'll like it if The Truman Show was your cup of tea.
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