Niko Fischer is a young man who is down on his luck after dropping out of college where he was studying law. He returns to Berlin only to experience a series of unfortunate events. First, he doesn't even have enough change to by a coffee, then he loses his cash card in a broken ATM and then he is refused the return of his driver's license when he is branded mentally instable. To make matters worse, he ends up having a very awkward encounter with a girl he used to tease at school; a girl who used to be overweight but is now a stunning aspiring actress; and his strict father has found out that he is no longer in college. Niko really doesn't know where he's going with his life and with all this bad luck, he's barely being given a chance to sit and think. And is a simple cup of coffee really so much to ask?
'A Coffee In Berlin' (previously called 'Oh Boy') is a black and white German movie billed as a 'tragicomedy'. It has been directed and written by Jan Ole Gerster in his feature film debut and has won more than twenty international film awards since its initial release. It is set to hit theatres on June 13th 2014.
Even though it's perhaps a bit over-constructed, this German comedy-drama is a hugely enjoyable personal odyssey with strong echoes of Woody Allen's classic era. Shot in black and white, the film feels like a minor classic as it follows a loser through a single day in which his whole life seems to hang in the balance. And even though he's an aimless mess, we can't help but love him.
His name is Niko (Schilling), and he begins the day by breaking up with his girlfriend then trying to convince a sarcastic psychologist (Schroders) that he deserves to get his driving license back after a drunk-driving conviction. He hasn't quite moved into his Berlin flat, and a nosey neighbour (von Dohnanyi) seems far too interested in him. So he leaves to hang out with his actor friend Matze (Hosemann), at which point he runs into Julika (Kempter), a girl he used to taunt for her weight at school. But Julika is now thin and hot, so he accepts an invitation to her art performance that evening. Before heading there, he visits his father (Noethen) to ask for some money and drops in on another actor friend (Klawitter) on the film set of a Nazi melodrama.
It becomes clear early on that Niko has absolutely no ambition. So it's no surprise that his father cuts him off when he learns that Niko dropped out of law school two years ago, and has been living off his university allowance so he has time to "think". The comedy comes from the fact that everyone Niko encounters on this fateful day seems to be interrupting his plan to waste his time. And Schilling plays him so beautifully that he earns our sympathy without ever asking for it. He may be a useless slacker, but he's smart, witty and utterly charming.
Continue reading: Oh Boy Review
After a brief prologue that finds Hitler (Bruno Ganz) choosing Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara) - the woman who would later become the subject of the 2002 documentary Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary - as his secretary, Hirschbiegel's film whisks us away to 1945 Berlin, where der Fuhrer and company are vainly attempting to keep the Aryan dream alive from a concrete bunker deep underneath the battle-ravaged city. Hitler remains convinced, against overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that the war remains winnable, and Ganz - an actor whose strength is usually found in contemplative silence - superbly brings the horrific fascist to maniacal life, balancing an exhausted, stooped posture and twitching left hand (always held behind his back) with sudden delusional tirades of mouth-frothing madness. Surrounded by increasingly cynical military officers, an unrepentant Hitler is agitated, desperate, and unable to relinquish the belief that his Nazi army will re-mobilize for a final, fatal strike against the Russians. Meanwhile, absurd and surreal last-gasp mini-dramas play out throughout the bunker, from Junge and her fellow secretary's attempts to remain optimistic and Albert Speer (Heino Ferch) and Heinrich Himmler's (Ulrich Noethen) eventual desertions to, most chillingly, Magda (Corinna Harfouch) and Joseph Goebbels' (Ulrich Matthes) plans to exterminate their six children should National Socialism crumble.
Continue reading: Downfall Review
For those not already versed in the lore of Adolf Hitler'sfinal days, the intimacy, immediacy and bunker-mentality minutia of "Downfall"may make for truly engrossing cinema. A detailed, historically accurateaccount that bears witness as the psychotic dreams of a 1,000-year ThirdReich slip away from its increasingly paranoid Fuehrer, this bravely matter-of-factGerman epic features uniformly powerful performances and is an eerie, vividrealization of gray-walled claustrophobia and the terror of saturationbombing. (The camera shakes in a uniquely unsettling, knock-you-off-your-bearingsway with each mortar shell.)
The fantastic Bruno Ganz (best known in the US for "Wingsof Desire") plays Hitler with a broken kind of humanity that makeshis evil subtler than expected, but by extension all the more chilling.His senior staff is accounted for nearly every moment of the detailed film,but none of them stands out except Ulrich Matthes as psychotically loyalpropaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, and Corinna Harfouch as his wife.She has the film's most disturbing scene, poisoning her children to "save"them from growing up in a world without National Socialism.
But while director Oliver Hirschbiegel ("DasExperiment") very effectively takes youdeep inside Nazi Germany's crumbling heart and brings many infamous momentsacutely to life, his film doesn't offer much in the way of new insight.The script is more of a textbook play-by-play than an examination of impulsesand psyches, and while the Hirschbiegel and his cast add those dimensionsthrough their fine work, it seems the only way he could invest the audiencein these events was by seeking out a sympathetic minor character -- inthe person of Hitler's young secretary, Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara)-- and beef up her significance.
Continue reading: Downfall Review
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