Saturday, 18 February 2017

Film Review: "Toni Erdmann" (2016).




Charles Ealy, of the Austin American-Statesman, calls it "Absolutely nuts!" This is certainly the case for Toni Erdmann. This German-Austrian comedy-drama film directed, written and co-produced by Maren Ade. Winfried doesn't see much of his working daughter Ines. He pays her a surprise visit in Bucharest, where she's busy as a corporate strategist. However, this doesn't help them to see more eye to eye. Ultimately, father and daughter reach an impasse, and Winfried agrees to go home to Germany. Enter Toni Erdmann: Winfried's flashy alter ego. Disguised in a tacky suit, weird wig and fake teeth, Toni barges into Ines' work circle, claiming to be her CEO's life coach. As Toni, Winfried doesn't hold back, and Ines meets the challenge. The harder they push, the closer they become. In all the madness, Ines begins to see that her eccentric father deserves a place in her life.

The making of the film itself is as strange and enduring as its titular character. A few inspirations influence writer/director Maren Ade's script. According to Ade one inspiration for the film's tone and the title character's humour was that of the irritating humour of the late comedian Andy Kaufman. For the character himself, Ade took inspiration from real life in the form of her own father who, like Winfried, possessed a bizarre sense of humour, and actually liked to put in fake teeth to joke with people. In regards to the film, Ade does not view her film as a comedy because she told her producer she was making it "sad" and "super-serious". The actors expressed Ade's sentiments. For filming, Ade shot 120 hours of footage during the 56 days shoot. Ade would typically do between 20 to 30 takes of each shot. If it was a scene that required multiple coverage of each actor the number of takes would double to between 40 to 60 so that each actor would get the coverage they needed. Ade threw out two days of footage and re-shot it after she felt she wasn't getting what she needed. Ade then spent over a year editing the film. During the process she encountered various situations varying from considering a shorter cut of the film, which would compromise the film's pacing and themes, to giving birth to her second child in the middle of Post-Production.

It stars Peter Simonischek, Sandra Hüller, Ingrid Bisu, Lucy Russell, Michael Wittenborn, Thomas Loibl and Trystan Pütter. The cast gave surprising performances, especially Simonischek and Hüller, who carried the film through its comically and outrageously loaded 162 running time.

Toni Erdmann is a surprising comedy drama full of bizarre and poignant material. The two leads, Simonischek and Hüller, are solid, they succeed in holding the audience's interest throughout the film's 162 running time. However, some of the film's iffy plot points undercut what the film truely is and what it wants to say. But in the end, the film is perhaps the most direct and most relevant film in a while.

Simon says Toni Erdmann receives:


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