Ze Germans (in Austria)

If I say Germany, you will probably think of WW II, crazy techno events, the Berlin wall. Awesome beer, Oliver Kahn, greasy sausages or their outstanding police force. You will most likely not think of Germany as a country that actually produces not good, but great movies. Think again. So here’s a review again. This time focusing on Austria and Germany (note: director Michael Haneke was born in Germany but raised in Austria by his German father and Austrian mother. Most of his movies are produced in Austria).


Funny Games (M. Haneke 1997 runtime 108min.)

An ordinary family containing a mother, father and their young son, is just about to get installed in their countryside vacation house when someone knocks on the door. Two young men stand outside, claiming to be friends of a neighboring family. They ask to borrow a couple of eggs since their host is cooking something but ran out of eggs. The mother consider the well spoken young men as a bit strange, but harmless, and decides to help them out with the missing eggs. The young men, Peter and Paul as they call themselves, leaves with the eggs. Only a few minutes pass until someone knocks on the door again. Unfortunately, Peter and Paul accidently crushed the eggs on their way back to the neighbors, so now they are back for another couple. As the mother doesn’t have that many eggs left herself, she’s not too keen on giving another few up. A minor discussion starts and Peter and Paul pretty much walks right into the house. But not in an aggressive way, more in a threatening, yet calm way. This is the beginning of a nightmare. The family soon finds themselves locked up in their own vacation house, terrorized for hours and hours, by two complete strangers who seem to think of it as nothing but one -funny- game.

Heneke could have easily turned this movie into a gore feast. But wise as he is, he didn’t. What makes ”Funny Games” stand out in the crowd is the fact that pretty much every single violent scene there could have been, has been left out. As soon as anything (violent) is about to happen, the camera pans over to something else, switches angels or in any other way leaving the viewer well aware of the violence going on, but not being able to actually see it. But trust me, your brain will be more than helpful when it comes to visualize it for you. This is a smart move by Haneke. It gets creepy on you.



Goodbye Lenin! (W. Becker 2003 runtime 121min.)

Christiane Kerner is an East German, single mother who was left by her husband, not only for another woman, but for the freedom of West. In 1989, her son Alex participates in an anti regime protest on the streets of East Berlin. She’s watching the riot live on tv when she suddenly sees her son getting arrested by a couple of police men. Due to her already misdirected hatred and suspicion for anything West, she is so upset by what she’s seen that she suffers a stroke, leaving her in a coma. During her time in coma, things in Germany are taking a huge change. While months pass, the Berlin wall is torn and East finally meets West. All sorts of new products appear on their up until now, pretty narrow market. Let’s just say, not a lot is what it used to be. This is how ever, not good news for everyone. When Christiane slowly starts to wake, Alex and his sister Ariane are told that she has to stay calm, and cannot what so ever be excited or upset, since it could cause another stroke that could actually kill her. Simply the fact that East and West Germany have been united while she was in a coma, would most likely send the anti West minded Christiane to a certain death. As the good son who only wants what he think is best for his mother, Alex takes on a huge mission. He is determent not to let his mother know about the extreme changes that have been. At first, things work pretty smooth. He goes through old trash to find old jars. Since pickles and other stuff now come in new cans with new labels on, he needs to pour the new stuff into the old jars. Mom won’t notice any taste difference as long as she can see the old familiar labels. Sneaky. Time passes and Christiane starts to make some progress. She now wants to watch the tv-news. Alex realize that he needs to kick his game up a notch and ask his friend at the TV store for help. He will literally do anything it takes to protect his mother. But for how long can he keep this whole charade going? I suggest you see for yourself!

This is a really, really funny movie. It’s also both sweet and sad at the same time. It not only takes on an important part of German history, but also addresses family related issues, love and friendship. It’s easy going and very easy to follow. But (yes, there is a but!), to fully enjoy this movie, knowing a thing or two about German history would come in quite handy. If you don’t, you will probably miss out on a few really funny moments. Like the one when Alex pays off two kids to entertain the weak Chrisitane by singing. If you decide to watch the movie anyway, at least do a little googling before watching. If you ignore my advice, you’re super lazy!