Cert: 15 Runtime: 162 mins Director: Maren Ade Cast: Peter Simonischek, Sandra Huller, Michael Wittenborn, Thomas Loibl and Trystan Putter
Toni Erdmann the German comedy film that is almost three hours long! Probably one of the most widely appraised films from Cannes for a few years. Academy award success is on the way and has finally been released in the UK! So what is Toni Erdmann about? It’s very funny examination of the disconnect between estranged family members and the pressures of the corporate world; it is as surprising, oddly touching and amusingly mischievous as its titular character. Snaggle-toothed and bewigged, Toni Erdmann is the bizarre alter ego of Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek), a divorced music teacher with a penchant for playing pranks. Concerned that his career-driven daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller) has become too serious, ‘Toni’ starts to randomly turn up and wreak havoc during Ines’s work meetings and social functions. What begins as an attempt at familial re connection has consequences neither Toni nor the increasingly stressed Ines could have predicted.
Deeply odd, often painfully funny, sometimes just painful, and often all 3 at once. A character study of an eccentric father trying to re-connect with his very straight laced adult daughter doesn’t sound like it would be nearly as unique as this wildly idiosyncratic film. But Ade manages to keep us delightfully off-balance for over two and a half hours as her film and characters resolutely refuse to go where we might expect from other stories with similar themes.I loved the way Ade explains nothing. There is almost no expository dialogue in the whole film. It’s up to us to figure out relationships, the past, motives, emotions, sanity vs. madness, even simply what the hell is going on at that moment by really watching the behavioural details of some wonderful performances. While the film could perhaps have been trimmed a bit, and not every scene works as well. I’m old enough and have seen enough movies that when a film-maker can give me an experience unlike any other I’ve had with a film before I’m thrilled. And that’s what Ade does with this heartbreaking comedy.