If the subtlety of French film or the wackiness of Spanish cinema often eludes you, why not give German comedy a try? Yes, really.
Maren Ade’s latest film, Toni Erdmann, is a farcical father and daughter story that has been warmly received across the globe, sweeping up award nominations at The Oscars and Cannes, and correcting any stereotypes about Germany’s lack of humour along the way.
The film follows eccentric retired piano teacher, Winfried (Peter Simonischeck), as he travels to Bucharest in an attempt to improve relations with his high-flying management consultant daughter, Ines, who is working there on an outsourcing operation in the Romanian oil business.
After Ines proves more interested in pleasing her dislikeable boss than hosting her father, Winfried decides to stay on in Bucharest incognito, assuming the persona of Toni Erdmann – an extravagant, wig and false-teeth wearing ‘life coach’ to high-flying CEOs.
Much to Ines’s horror, her father thus manages to infiltrate her life, gaining an intimate insight into his daughter’s work and relationships. This is also where the fun starts; Toni Erdmann is a fantastic comic creation, embarrassing the uptight Ines with whoopee cushions and his startling false teeth.
Whilst the film drags in parts (it has a running time of almost 3 hours), its random plot-twists will have you bemused and laughing out loud – particularly the naked party/yeti costume scene, as bizarre and hilarious as it sounds.
Underneath the comedy, Maren Ade’s film has many tender and serious notes. Ines’s almost sterile corporate life contrasts wonderfully with her care-free, crazy father – who, though pitiable in his loneliness, should be admired for his motto to ‘not forget the humour’ in life. Ines, it turns out, is just as lonely for all her apparent success, but considerably more unhappy than her father, under pressure at work and cold in her love-life.
‘Toni Erdmann’ is a strange slow-builder but one to see for its refreshingly random comedy and examination of family relationships, the expat experience and, at its heart, what it means to really live. Not forgetting its the best exposure Romania has probably has had on our cinema screens in a long-time.