All 2 entries tagged Comedy
View all 173 entries tagged Comedy on Warwick Blogs | View entries tagged Comedy at Technorati | There are no images tagged Comedy on this blog
October 23, 2008
Goodbye Lenin! – Crossing the borders
- Goodbye Lenin!
Goodbye Lenin! is a rare anomaly in film, a German-language comedy that successfully transferred to the mainstream English-language cinema; appropriate, considering the clash of cultures depicted in the film itself. Wolfgang Becker’s sophomore film as writer and director is a masterpiece of cultural commentary, blending nostalgia and satire while viewing one of the 20th century’s defining political moments through a human story that is both heartbreaking and hilarious.
Christiane Kerner (Katrin Sass) is a model Socialist citizen living in East Berlin, who devotes her time to writing letters and galvanising her community in support of the DDR. On the eve of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, however, she sees her son Alex (Daniel Bruhl) taking part in an anti-communist protest and collapses, falling into a coma and missing the entire reunification process. When she awakes, Alex and sister Ariane (Maria Simon) are warned that any shocks may trigger a heart attack, and Alex therefore commits himself to pretending that the Wall never fell down, which becomes increasingly difficult as Western culture increasingly encroaches on reunified
From this (admittedly rather unlikely) premise, Becker constructs a narrative that, through this family, recreates the thrill and upheaval of post-reunification Germany. With a bittersweet taste we see Ariane starting work at Burger King, Coca-Cola banners being plastered over apartment blocks and a group of wide-eyed East Germans watching American porn as the Western world gradually eradicates the distinctive culture of the East, causing comic trouble for Alex as his recovering mother requests specific favourite brands of pickles. Yet the encroaching homogenisation of the nation is largely welcomed, and a genuine celebratory feel is created as the unified German football team progress through the 1990 world cup, with East and West German citizens celebrating together. The famously poignant scene in which Alex’s mother finally leaves their flat and witnesses the changes in all their glory as a statue of Lenin is flown past best encapsulates the extent of the cultural change sweeping the country (see the clip below).
Rather than ram history down the throats of its audience, however, the strength of Goodbye Lenin! is in the way it creates a tapestry of everyday life, with glimpses of the major events rather than front row seats. Much of the action takes place in the closed-off apartments of ordinary people, focussing on the changes in their day to day lives. The enormity of reunification is taken for granted; it is the people who lived through it that we are asked to empathise with; and its central character is one of the most human protagonists one could hope to meet.
Alex inadvertently echoes the tactics of the DDR itself, attempting to protect his mother by disguising her from uncomfortable truths, and the lengths he goes to (including recording fake TV news reports with his work colleague) form much of the film’s comedy. Yet, through this, Alex starts creating his own fantasy version of history, in which socialism prevails over capitalism and eventually welcomes in and subsumes the West. Bruhl is wonderful in a role that combines ingenuity with pathos; his repeated slipping into fantasy is as much to protect himself as his mother, he hurt by the abandonment of the family by his father years ago. This is Alex’s story throughout, and Bruhl brings great feeling to the joys and pains of first love, of responsibility at a young age, of the overwhelming love for his mother that pushes the rest of his relationships to breaking point. In a final heartbreaking moment, Alex’s long-suffering girlfriend reveals the entire plot to his mother in exasperation; yet she, realising what he has done for her, doesn’t give away that she knows and plays along, realising that the charade is as much for him as for her. This final unspoken act of motherly love, just before her death, provides the closure he needs.
Becker’s script expertly treads a line between condemnation of and nostalgia for socialism, refusing to align the film to either viewpoint and taking a somewhat simplistic view of the politics, but ultimately the political aspect is unimportant next to his humanist concern with the people affected by the transition. Underscored by Yann Tiersen's evocative music, Goodbye Lenin! is a film about love and loss, with the situation of the country a backdrop to the relatively simple story of a young man and his mother. Its historicity is specific, but its resonance is universal.
July 09, 2008
Huit Femmes/8 Women
Huit Femmes is a bizarre yet hilarious film, but something that you are only likely to enjoy if you are already a fan of musicals. It was based upon a stage play but seems well adapted for DVD. The film is set in the 1950's in an isolated mansion at Christmas time. Inside are eight women who find themselves with a dead body on their hands, that of the only man of the house. They cannot leave or summon any help, so the investigation begins...which one of them killed Marcel? Each character appears to be surrounded by a pack of lies which slowly unravel as the film progresses. The story is told through a mixture of normal speech and song. The humour comes from the outrageously cheesy nature of these songs, and the accompaning dance moves. The songs are surprisingly catchy, particularly 'T'es plus dans le coup Papa'. The characters, costumes, and situation are all exaggerated, but that is the point. This sense of exaggeration is what creates the comedy, yet it is prevented from becoming too ridiculous by the fact that this film stars some very famous actresses incuding Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Beart and Fanny Ardant whoall provide convincing performances. You will get even more out of the film if you have some knowledge of the type of characters that these actresses usually play, since in several cases they are sending up their usual roles. This is a nice change from some of the more high-brow French films that I have watched in the pasta and personally I loved it because it did what I expected that it would, it entertained me and made me laugh.