Below the Line recently hosted a screening of Germany’s entry for best foreign film Toni Erdmann. Written and directed by Maren Ade, the story tells of a hippie, practical joker father and his attempts to frustrate and nudge his daughter into a better life.
The film stars Sandra Hüller who is brilliantly restrained as a daughter being driven to the edge by the childish pranks of her father, (played by Peter Simonischek) who feels that the only weapon that he has to reach his unhappy daughter is humor and his alter ego, Toni Erdmann. “Humor is often a way of coping with things, and as such, it is always also a product of pain. Winfried (Simonischek) is unable to get through to his daughter any other way.”
Simonischek spends much of the film wandering through the corporate life of his button-down daughter in fake teeth, a horrible wig and badly cut clothing, ironically being accepted by both her friends and colleagues as her CEO’s life coach. He is alternately puzzled, angered and saddened by the life his daughter leads.
The practical joke humor in the film is balanced nicely by the locked-up passion of Hüller’s character and her struggle to come to grips with a life that is narrow and unhappy. There are also interesting and ironic storylines about feminism in the workplace. “Ines works in a male-dominated field, and she has really internalized that. She may actually even regard herself as “one of the guys” – the problem is that, when push comes to shove, they don’t see it that way. I’ve interviewed quite a few women in leadership positions, and most of them claim to enjoy being the exception to the rule, even though it means they’re lonely at times,” said Ade. When Ines ultimately bursts free of the constraints of this life, as well as a too-tight dress, the results are crazy, funny and poignant at the same time.
Filmed in Bucharest, the director of photography was Patrick Orth. Art direction was handled by Silke Fischer, also known for Lore and Ade’s Everyone Else. Costume designer Gitti Fuchs worked on this film as well as earlier films by Ade The Forest for the Trees and Everyone Else as did editor Heike Parplies. Original sound was the responsibility of Patrick Veigel, and Bernhard Maisch, a multi-award-winning sound editor, was the re-recording mixer.
Toni Erdmann just this weekend won 5 awards at the European Film Awards including best film, director and screenwriter.
Toni Erdmann is being released December 25, 2016.