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This film review concerns two films: Der Junge muss an die frische Luft by Caroline Link and Bohemian Rhapsody by Bryan Singer. I watched both during one week and they both deal with biographies of individuals with whose art and talent I grew up and which I have always highly valued since I was young: Hape Kerkeling and Freddie Mercury - funny to see these names together, some people would say they are not playing in the same league, but for me, in a way, they are. Writing this I am aware that both were homosexual men and the films also discuss these issues (to anticipate: in a very different way). However, as both are such dissimilar personalities having a totally different background, this has neither been the reason for my admiration nor the intention of watching the films or reviewing them together. Indeed, I did not even know this detail when I was young as both have "outed" themselves as gay only later and unintentionally.
Der Junge muss an die frische Luft from 2018 tells the story of the early childhood of the successful German comedian, Hans Peter (or Hape) Kerkeling, following his and sharing the title of his autobiographical novel. It is directed by Caroline Link, who already won an Oscar for her film Nirgendwo in Afrika in 2003. The young Kerkeling-boy is performed by Julius Weckauf, his mother by Luise Mayer. Also, the well-known German actors Joachim Król, Hedi Kriegeskotte and Maren Kroymann play roles as members of Kerkelings family.
Bohemian Rhapsody was also released in 2018 and presented itself as a mixture between documentary and drama, reflecting the life and rise of Freddie Mercury and the band, Queen from the middle of the seventies up until Mercurys death in 1991. It is directed by Bryan Singer. If I remember correctly, he wasn't able to finish the film, because of arguments on set, but direction of the last scenes were taken over by another director, David Fletcher. Rami Malek plays Freddie Mercury. His "love of my life", Mary Austin was performed by Lucy Boynton. It is also stars Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello as members of the band Queen. Only Gwilym Lee, performing as the guitar-player Bryan May, I know from his role as Inspector Banaby´s assistant.
"Der Junge muss an die frische Luft"
The action takes place in the town Recklinghausen in the Ruhr area in Western Germany, where Hape Kerkeling was born. He is seven years old, when the story begins, and the age of ten at the end of the film. In between, we are introduced to his huge family with a lot of uncles, aunts and cousins and four wonderful grandparents, which uses every opportunity to meet each other, have parties, laugh together, sing and caress and admire the young already very funny Hans Peter. He performs in private circles, using his roles as princesses and the lady-in-a-half-trick, famous singers and performers of his childhood. His homosexuality is not specifically mentioned, but sometimes the film shows him looking at magazines with male models wearing underwear in the fashion of the seventies, or his loving grandmother asking people to shut the mouth when they complained about him wearing female carnival costumes. We see him moving with his parents to another residence, which included a new school and new neighbors. He is aware that he won't be able to impress his classmates with physical elegance and power as he has been clumsy and stout. Instead he uses his charm and cleverness and even exaggerates his clumsiness. We often see his absent father and his loving and beautiful mom going deeper and deeper into illness and depression, laughing only when seeing her son singing or performing, and at the end, committing suicide. After his mother´s death his grandparents take over his care. The film audience was not even able to stop crying because of the mothers very sad death, when seeing Hape and his grandparents preparing carefully for the visit of a lady from the child-protective-service. This scene is so funny, Hape directing the performance and role of each member of the small on set, that started with crying, but this time ended because of laughter. The film did end with a scene showing a performance of a banal school play. Hape only got the small role of a neighbor, arguing with a soccer-playing boy, but he was able to interpret and perform this one-minute-role in such a funny and extrovert way that he got all the laughter and applause for his own sake.
Bohemian Rhapsody tells the story of the band Queen's forming, their first successes in clubs and bars, Freddies conservative Parsis family, the meeting of Freddie and his female love, Mary and the rise of the band from the moment of discovery by professional agents. Some of the most famous songs were performed including back stories to their writing and production. This especially concerns the story of writing, producing and releasing the eponymous title of the film, "Bohemian Rhapsody". According to the film, it had been rejected by EMI-Records at first, and then became the basis of the more then 20 years of success of the Band Queen. The film depicted how Freddie Mercury found out that he was bi-sexual and his first homosexual contacts. However, even the introduction into the Munich gay and leather fetish scene is only delicately hinted at, which in my eyes was somewhat ridiculous. The film then showed Mercury´s personality changing into a selfish person, manipulated by one of his agents, which ends in the separation of the band. In a dramatic matter they meet each other once again, rejoin, being told that Freddie suffers from AIDS. Finally, they perform at the famous Live-Aid-concert at Wembley Stadium in 1985.
I was very impressed by the acting skills of the young actor, who played Hape Kerkeling. How can a seven year old boy act in such a precise, professional and confident way and at the same time remain a relaxed child? Also Rami Malek did a tremendous job. However, I did miss the "real" Freddie Mercury the whole time. The other actors are great in both films. I especially liked the actor starring Brian May. I have seen Brian May several times in TV and Gwilym Lee did his best to render the guitarist's attitude and behaviour perfectly.
What I enjoyed about Der Junge muss an die frische Luft is the authenticity of the story. It is not important, if everything actually happened in the manner the film has shown it. But it is a true story, a story about a wonderful boy and his wonderful and at the same time tragic family. You know at the end of this film, that this ten year old will find his way and spread his talents.
And this authenticity I saw in Der Junge muss an die frische Luft I didn´t find in Bohemian Rhapsody. Is it closer to a documentary? Yes, because the scenes at the Live-Aid-Concert are perfectly covered - I know that as I watched the concert when I was 15 years old and have never forgotten Queen´s amazing performance. Is it a drama? Yes, Queen never separated, Freddie did not tell anybody about his AIDS infection before 1987. Additionally, his performances with David Bowie and Montserrat Cabellé were not once mentioned in the film. When I saw the film Amadeus by Milos Forman thirty years before, I knew, that it did not tell the true and exact story of Mozart´s life. However, it was a true film about a genius. Bohemian Rhapsody is a loosely-based story about a genius and at times, an inadequate drama about a singer/songwriter. Only the music will survive - but it's the music of Queen, not of Brian Singer.
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