Director: Maren Ade
Featuring: Peter Simonischek, Sandra Huller, Michael Wittenborn, Thomas Loibl, Trystan Putter
Language: German with subtitles
Running time: 162 minutes
Winfried is a retired music teacher living in the comfortable suburbs of Berlin with his decrepit dog. A practical joker and wannabe clown, he keeps himself entertained by donning disguises and trying to fool the mailman. When his adult daughter, Ines, returns from overseas on a short visit, Winfried is horrified to see she’s become a stressed and humourless corporate high flyer. She’s glued to her mobile phone and there’s a permanent downturn to her sulky mouth.
The concerned father decides to surprise her by turning up in Bucharest, Romania, where Ines works for a huge multinational company as a consultant hired to justify the retrenchment of local employees.
Ines is already fighting hard to maintain power in a highly sexist workplace – her boss asks her to help his wife shop for souvenirs. We see the desperation of an eccentric, liberal-minded father trying to break through to his conservative daughter – who’s clearly involved in the exploitation of a developing country; but we also observe in minute detail the daughter’s courage and intelligence, and the multiple indignities she suffers to survive in the corporate jungle.
One of the pleasures here is seeing Ines apply all her determination and street-smart instincts to counter her father’s increasingly bizarre role play: he adopts the persona of ‘Toni Erdmann’ – an unconventional corporate coach in a bad suit, fright wig and those awful teeth. He turns up at her office, at the bars where she drinks with her female friends, and at the networking parties, she frequents. Her responses are never predictable, especially when she eventually plays along and lets her father see what her life is really like – remote mining site visits, cocaine-snorting and all. The battle of wits between Winfried and Ines is especially bittersweet because there’s so much love and deep understanding mixed in with the anger and resentment.
This is a film bursting with strange, wonderful, comic set pieces that work all the better for their straight-faced naturalism: a nudist birthday party-cum-corporate bonding exercise; a tragic sex scene involving power-play and pastries and Karaoke.
Original review: Rochelle Siemienowicz SBS Extracted by: Peter Gillard
This special screening is brought to you by the Launceston Film Society. It is in addition to our normal program screened during the week. We believe that this is a worthwhile film but have not included it in our normal program as it is too long at 162 minutes.