Maren Ade (director)
03 February 2017 (released)
03 February 2017
"A lonely place to be, so I learned to depend on me," sings Ines mimicking Whitney Houston in one of the most tragi-comic film scenes of all time. This poignant moment is what contains the very texture of Toni Erdmann, the third feature by Maren Ade.
Toni Erdmann is the story of a love relationship weakened by time and distance (both physical and mental), it is the story of a father, Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) and his daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller). Winfried is a music teacher and has been a joker all his life, using comedy to find happiness and wonder in everyday life. A trick that probably worked when Ines was a child. But Ines is now a successful career woman working for a great (and quite evil) consulting corporation in Bucharest, Romania. There, she can live without any family constraint, but, as the song goes, she may be hiding more loneliness than she would like to show.
Winfried seems to notice this from their cold meeting during a quick visit from Ines. They have estranged one another and cannot seem to reconnect nor find common ground. Thinking of fixing things as he could always do in the past, through tales, jokes and characters impersonations, Winfried surprises Ines in Bucharest.
And it's in Bucharest that this tale of fake teeth, spaghetti, and cheese graters, begins and evolves, with comedy and make-believe at its core. It's in Bucharest that Toni Erdmann appears and Ines decides to pretend a little bit longer.
We need more films like Toni Erdmann. Films that are layered and complex and human. Films that you can watch for hours and still laugh as if the film had just started. Toni Erdmann makes the audience feel alive. It's everything that a film could give, the whole emotional spectrum of life.
Toni Erdmann is also a film that could teach a lot to mainstream comedies. Its strength relying on a masterful script that allows the actors to become their characters and to become someone else with them. It's a film about the weak texture of relationships, even the sacred family bonds.
It teaches the audience how to rediscover the magic of childhood and the endless game of believing that the man dressed in red was Santa Claus, not your father trying to make you smile.