Siggi is in prison during the post-war period. He should write an essay. He remembers that his father was supposed to ban his profession from a friend who was a painter. Siggi should help him, but he rebelled.
Siggi Jepsen is in Germany after the war in an institution for difficult to educate young people. He is to write an essay on the subject "The pleasures of duty", but has no idea. Only when he is locked in a cell the next day, the memories of his childhood during the Second World War break out of him: His father Jens Ole Jepsen, a police officer, was then commissioned to bring the friendly expressionist painter Ludwig Nansen a professional ban , At Nansen's surveillance, Siggi was supposed to help him at the time, but eventually he rebelled against his father, sided with the recalcitrant Nansen and hid some of the forbidden pictures, eventually leading to his stay in the asylum.
Beautifully filmed but rather shallow adaptation of this uniquely german story
Christian Schwochows adaptation of Siegfried Lenz' 1968 landmark novel is a visually striking and competently made movie that sadly misses many subleties that made the story come alive in the first place.
Yes, I have read Deutschstunde not too long ago and was impressed not only by the main story and the quite suspensful thread that runs through it, but also by the honest characterisation of the people of Nordfriesland, their quirks and the subtle description of their beliefs. This was something that was dearly missed here. Of course, several side-characters were omitted from this 2019 movie version, but the main change is that the focus shifts from our protagonist young Siggi, whose thoughts we are told firsthand in the novel, to the depiction of the conflict between his father and the painter Max Ludwig Nansen. And this is where the movie fails: for a story that deals with repressed emotions and the blind need to 'do ones duty', it is played very emotional: there are several instances of flying fists, shooting guns, screaming and crying to the point where it becomes a bit unbelievable. Also, because of the neglect of the highly complex character of Siggi as our focus, we can hardly understand the change he goes through and his actions at the end of the movie can become confusing. This criticism would not be so hard if the movie would try to introduce something new to the story instead of simply retelling the main points and staying closely beneath the surface.
Still there are strong points. The visuals of the raw northern german shoreline are beautiful, but not to the point where some movies lose itself in neverending elegic drone-footage. It is presented more like another character here and this is exactly what this movie needs. Also, some praise must go to Tobias Moretti who as the strong-willed Nansen makes us believe in the need to paint and what it means not only to him but everyone around him. He is the main reason that Deutschstunde is still recommendable and doesn't quite fail as a competent adaptation of one of the most iconic german novels of all time.
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