Thursday, July 10, 2014

This Berlin isn't for tourists

I like a film about slackers as much as the next indolent wretch. Still, I wasn't quite sure how to feel about director Jan Ole Gerster's A Coffee In Berlin, a film that focuses on Niko, a young man (Tom Schilling) whose life is going nowhere. Although Niko has dropped out of college, he still collects money his father sends him for tuition. That's how he lives. While vainly looking for a cup of coffee, perhaps thinking it will pull him out of his stuporous existence, Niko has mini-adventures with an actor pal (Marc Hosemann). Niko meets an attractive woman (Friederike Kempter) he knew and evidently teased in high school. She used to be fat. If you've been thinking of Berlin as one of Europe's most dynamic and culturally vibrant cities, A Coffee in Berlin may change your mind. Gerster's camera takes an anti-touristic, black-and-white approach to a city he obviously knows well. The film flirts with making a point when Niko visits the set a World War II movie. There, he meets a jovial actor who's playing a Nazi who has fallen in love with a Jewish woman, an extraordinarily bad idea for a movie. Gerster carries the idea of Germany's indigestible Nazi past further when Niko, dejectedly planted on a bar stool, meets an aging man who remembers the horrors of Kristallacht. All of this is set to a jazz-laden score, which seems to suggest that Gerster has lots of stuff whirling around in his mind and may someday make a movie in which some of it coalesces in a more impactful way.

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