19 October 2012

The Weekend / Das Wochenende (Nina Grosse, 2011, Germany)

It's unfortunate, but I think that my experience of this film was largely contaminated by the extreme annoyingness of the audience with whom I saw it. It turns out this film is too subtle for a large swath of elderly viewers who couldn't seem to figure out what was happening and were scandalized by anything they could understand. Nevermind that this film is neither particularly hard to follow nor particularly scandalous.

The film is based on Bernhard Schlink's fictionalized novel about the release of an RAF member in 2008. The RAF (Red Army Faction), aka Baader Meinhof Group, may be familiar to you if you've seen The Baader Meinhof Complex, which was nominated for the best foreign film Oscar a couple of years ago. They were a domestic terrorist group in Germany during the 1970s, mostly, and many of the members went to prison and the ones who didn't myseriously die there have been gradually released over the past few decades. I haven't read the book, but the director said that she made major changes in adapting it because the book is predominately a philosophical treatise and therefore not particularly cinematic. In this film, Jens, played by Sebastian Koch from The Lives of Others, is released from prison after 18 years and his sister (Barbara Auer) arranges a weekend to celebrate with some of his old friends. Never mind that nobody seems to feel like celebrating, least of all Jens. He seems preoccupied with discovering who tipped of the police all those years ago. There is a lot of drama as well about the woman he had loved then (Katja Riemann) and the child they had together. The child is namely a son whom the father never really acknowledged and who is now an angry young man.

The film is interesting in some ways. There is suspense about who called the police back then, for example, and some of the dialogue is sharp. It's well filmed and the actors mostly have a great rapport. That said, the film is, as is typical for many a German film, loaded with family melodrama that gets to feeling a little schmaltzy. Additionally, the discussion of the movement and the crimes that brought them to this place are vague and superficial. Still, whatever weaknesses I recognized in this film, I imagine that I will probably watch it again if I get the chance.

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