Toni Erdmann, 2016.
Directed by Maren Ade
Starring Sandra Hüller, Peter Simonischek, Michael Wittenborn and Ingrid Bisu
In order to reconnect with his business driven daughter, a father creates an alter ego pretending to be a high-flying life coach.
Sometimes a story is so outlandish, so obscure that you think this has to be true as no-one could possible make this up. Well, with Toni Erdmann we have the exact opposite. A sequence of events that continues to spiral out of control so wonderfully orchestrated by writer and director Maren Ade.
We’re dropped into the life of eccentric father, Winfried (Peter Simonischek) as he goes through his days often making jokes by dawning face paint or a set of false teeth that are forever in his shirt pocket. Comfortable in other people’s skin, perhaps more than his own we only find himself truly stripped back when alone with his dog. His Daughter, Ines (Sandra Hüller) is a successful business woman who takes her work and standing in her firm very seriously. There is no surprises then that both don’t speak regularly with Ines currently being based in Budapest.
The camera lingers on the action longer than you would expect and therefore gives you a real sense of the awkward atmosphere Winfried normally creates with his attempts at humour. Toni Erdmann is a movie that when it begins it gathered a few smiles through introducing us to the characters. Those few smiles turned into a few laughs as the chaos began when we’re introduced to his alter ego and name sake for the movie, Toni Erdmann. By the end of the movie I had broke multiple times and was gasping for air in between laughs. It continues to build in such a pace that never breaks the flow of the story.
The running time on paper is surprising for a comedy at just under three hours, although you never really feel it become an issue. A movie that you would benefit from knowing very little about (the irony of this statement is not lost on me) as for a significant portion of the movie you don’t really grasp where the film or its characters are going. Just allow the laughs to wash over you as later, when you look back, you’ll realize that each and every aspect was meticulously crafted.
Aside from the big comedy moments, we find a complex and gentle relationship between father and daughter which can hit as hard as any of the set pieces. It also conjures up the question of what brings happiness and in a certain scene Ines tries to get at the definition of what that really is. A number of scenes will stick with you, not only due to the comedy heavy lifting that both Sandra Hüller and Peter Simonischek are able to undertake. You’ll find more subtle and touching moments sprinkled among the madness.
Have it down as one of your must watch movies of 2017 as it works on many different levels but most importantly it succeeds in making you laugh, a lot.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★