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Gripping and funny
When I looked up this film on IMDb to comment on it, I noticed that there is already talk of a remake with Mark Wahlberg. It doesn't surprise me that major studios would turn to this thriller, which depicts an unusual and interesting milieu and tells its story with great suspense, warmth and humor. Although, as an art historian, I cannot recommend the negligent treatment of a Jackson Pollock painting in this movie. It's kind of sad that the remake means that this Icelandic movie will not get the attention it deserves in other countries. The acting was excellent, the directing impeccable, and the story well-crafted with interesting characters.
Good story, good concept
I've seen this film at the Lübeck film festival, with English subtitles. I have never seen a film of this director before. I'm saying this because former commentators have talked about language and the director repeating himself - I wouldn't know about that.
What I've seen was an interesting love story of adolescents, with all the insecurities and incongruities I remember from my own life at that age. The characters were interesting, their interaction believable. The story was well-constructed - a lot of things you learned in passing during the first half-hour turned out to have some impact later on. It is not easy to knit real life memories so closely together that they will carry over a two hour movie. What really made the movie come to life was the decision to extend shooting over a three-year-period, so the actors would actually get older during the movie. This cannot have been easy, especially as the film is a period piece. But it lends a special credibility to the story which I admire.
Frau Böhm sagt Nein (2009)
Plea for decency
You've read it in the newspaper, how shareholders change the fate of companies, a constant dance of sinking, rising, merging and destroying, strangely unrelated to the people actually doing the work. The made-for-TV movie does not offer any new insights, but still it is very recommendable as an earnest plea for decency. Decency is personified in the character of Frau Böhm, superbly performed by Senta Berger - never has she looked so unglamorous yet so beautiful and sincere. Frau Böhm is loyal to her employers to the last, taking care of the board of directors' wages. But suddenly she refuses to pay them their 80 million Euro bonuses for selling out the company. And after we have got to know the character, we know she couldn't decide differently - just look at the way she celebrates Christmas Eve all alone in her apartment. The best thing is that there actually was a woman who said No in real life, which inspired screenwriter Dorothee Schön to write the movie. So decency still seems to be around.
Erntedank. Ein Allgäukrimi (2009)
Those who like the Allgäu-detective novels by the author duo Klüpfel/Kobr will hopefully agree with me that this was a perfect adaptation of the novel "Erntedank". The novels offer not only well-constructed whodunits, but also a very loving portrayal of Allgäu characters, peculiarities and myths. The TV movie earns my respect by capturing all of that. Even if Herbert Knaup doesn't look like you would have imagined Kluftinger, he does a very good job of impersonating this detective with a taste for Wurstsalat (don't even begin to ask!) and a certain ineptitude with modern technology, a detective who solves his cases with experience, creativity and instinct. The supporting characters were also well-acted, bringing the dialect-mischmasch of Kluftinger's colleagues just as well to life as the arrogance of a Dr. Langhammer. The two novelists have cameos, too. The direction of Rainer Kaufmann and the camera-work of Klaus Eichhammer convey very well the mythical quality of the Allgäu landscape. This was fun to watch, so I hope there'll be more adaptations of Klüpfel/Kobr's works.
Butter bei die Fische (2009)
Farmers' marriage market
The plot is simple: Out-of-work but hot and unconventional woman in her 50s drives three women plus one kid from North-Rhine Westphalia to Schleswig-Holstein, where they hope to be matched to three single farmers by the village pastor. Four men, four women, but will there be love? It's clear that a plot like that depends very much on characters. In this case, they were recognizable and likable, but could all have been somewhat weirder for my taste. It all worked out a little too conveniently in the end, even for the decrepit church building. Still, the landscape of Schleswig-Holstein at the time of canola blossoming is always endearing, and the TV-evening was in no way wasted - especially because of the interesting cast with Ulrike Kriener, Gerburg Jahnke and Elena Uhlig, to name just a few.
Barfuß bis zum Hals (2009)
Mostly harmless nudity
If you ever doubted that Germans are pretty cool about nudity, here's the final proof. This made-for-TV feature film tells the struggle of a nudist campsite in Brandenburg against the new owner, a conservative Bavarian businessman. It also tells the struggle of Jakob, the son of the campsite's spokesman, against his seemingly open and tolerant father. Nearly every actor in this film had to let his clothes fall at one point or another, some of them had to put them on for some scenes. What might be shocking to some viewers, however, turns out to be mostly harmless. There is good acting, OK dialogue and few surprises in the plot - if you don't count the unexpected use of the word "eggwarmers". Still, enough for a nice TV-evening you won't regret.
Doctors in love
Once more, screenwriter Bora Dagtekin shows his talent in up-to-date comedy series. The premise of "Bridget Jones as a doctor", including all her love- and family-problems, is brought to life with a good set of believable characters, unexpected twists and very emotional story lines that make you laugh and cry at the same time. The flashbacks into the 1980s add a very nice "La Boum"-touch. The second season promises even more fun than the first, seeing how the actors really seem to have grown into their roles. Florian David Fitz' portraying of Marc has never been so likable, while still getting across all his popular-boy-arrogance. Kai Schumann's sad-eyed Mehdi is heart-wrenching, and Diana Amft as protagonist Gretchen Haase is invariably cute, however absurd the situation she finds herself in. It is to be hoped that the series will continue for more than two seasons.
Edit: Impressions after the pilot for season 3
The actors are invariably great in their roles, especially Diana Amft as Gretchen and Florian David Fitz as Marc. Their work gets harder, though, since the screenwriters have increasing difficulty in juggling the story lines of quite a lot of characters. Dagtekins roots in soap opera writing becomes way too evident in the improbable events around a pandemia (I have never seen a hospital less organized or doctors less concerned with their patients' welfare) and the rather far-fetched attempt to dispose of Alexis von Buren (Steffen Groth), Gretchen's new husband. I would have liked to see more comedy stem from the main characters' inner struggle with their feelings and less effort to steer events in a certain way. Let's hope this was just a problem of the pilot.
Maria, ihm schmeckt's nicht! (2009)
The hilarity of being a stranger
The Germans Jan and Sara want to marry. The problem: Her father Antonio is Italian and used to have things his way. So the wedding is to take place in Campobello, in the midst of Antonio's numerous family. Jan faces bravely the hurdles thrown in his way: frutti di mare in every dish despite his allergy, a bed not fit to sleep in, strange pictures and temperamental family members who mistrust him because he doesn't seem as enthusiastic as they wish him to be. Many hilarious situations ensue - some of which you may have seen in other films, but nevertheless they appear fresh and witty, due to the screen writing and the superb acting on the part of Christian Ulmen and Lino Banfi, supported by an equally good cast. The locations in Italy add their own charm to the film. The only weakness of the film is the ending, which is surprising, but still seems a little lame. The rest is fun to watch, recommended for a summer evening. Note: This film is an adaptation of Jan Weiler's autobiographical book of the same title, Weiler also co-wrote the screenplay. Since I haven't read the book, I can't compare the film to it.
Fette Welt (1998)
Hard to place
It's hard to place this movie, because in my opinion, two principles are clashing here. On the one hand, there's what you learn in screen writing class: Protagonists should have an aim and a need. On the other, there's the reality of life on the streets, where one day is pretty much the same as the day before, small incidents excluded. This said, one probably has to accept the fact that the main character Hagen Trinker is pretty aimless for most of the movie, drifting passively along. One assumes that there must be a backstory, a life he's fled, a crisis he couldn't manage but by drinking, but we learn very little about it. Around the midpoint of the movie, his implicit need for love is brought out in the open when he is finally giving in to a teenage runaway's wish for sex. It is very touching to see how the mechanic movement turns into something more Trinker didn't expect, and how this gives him an aim for some time: Find the girl, who has been brought back to her parents. But at the end, he's drifting again - and we can only hope he'll be finally able to do something with his life. It's interesting that the supporting characters, on the contrast, have very clearly defined aims: Edgar wants to go to Acapulco with Liane, Tom wants to see Cambridge. One succeeds, one doesn't. In the end I have to admit that I admire the screenwriter's and director's courage to leave questions unanswered. Still, one would have liked to learn more about those people under the bridge (who were still moving and talking very much like dressed down actors, I'm afraid).
Screenwriter afraid of his own courage
The idea sounds fun: A husband, frolicking around with a co-worker, finds out that his wife has been untrue, too. Unfortunately, she dies right after the confession. Herbert Knaup is rather convincing as the desperate husband, trying to find out who his rival was (of course, her unfaithfulness is MUCH worse than his, mostly because he never noticed). It is also fun to watch the arrival of Ben Becker as the said rival, a Hamburg pimp in money troubles. But from then on, the screenwriter (who is also the director, and not unexperienced in both métiers) doesn't seem to trust his own ideas any more. What proceeds as a gripping yet highly hilarious business transaction between the two rivals turns out to be nothing more than a dream, the reality being rather weak compared to it. The ending gets back to gripping, but at that point one always expects the protagonist to wake up again. So, was the end really the end or just another nightmare? Either way, it was rather boring. Sad, because the actors were fun to watch and would have deserved a better conclusion.