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  • This may be an unfair comparison, but take the elements of male friendships and self- discovery from Trainspotting and add the pacing, violence, frustrations, and relationships from Romper Stomper, and you'll get a feel for what this excellent film is like visually and sensually. A worthy round of applause to Director Bonengel and Actors Blumel and Hildebrandt and crew. Especially noteworthy, from an American perspective, is how powerfully and unapologetically the frontal nudity scenes were done in the prison. (American directors and film stars are cowards in comparison when addressing themes of such violence, sexuality, pain and need.) The directing, filming, lighting, acting and editing perfectly highlight the powerful aggressiveness and absolute vulnerability of the characters in a way that does not betray the craftsmanship that went into the production. Kudos to the entire team of Fuhrer Ex. The film is emotionally charged: uncomfortable, painful, tender, funny, and exciting. Highly-recommended.
  • up_and_out10 November 2002
    My title above really says it all.

    The film is as outstanding as is "American History X." The young lead is also. As was Edward Norton of course. The theme is very similar, and just as well developed... Characters include the older man with Neo-Nazi ideas leading young people with little or no father figures stray, the protected or protective brother figure, the strong mother figure, the jail scenes with all the violence to be expected. The list of parallels is endless.

    Yes, you may have seen it all before. But this flick is worthwhile. Face it - the topic perhaps does belong more to Berlin (need I say it -the birth place of Neo-nazism) than to Los Angeles. And the Germans have finally made a film about a culture they originated, which is outstanding in many ways.

    The inside look at the old GDR (East Germany) is very informative, and well told to non-Germans. Germans may think otherwise of this recurring "East German" theme, a staple plot setting in German cinema for the last 12 years with no end in sight. But even if that is old to you, there is so much to appreciate in the movie that it will not disappoint. Certainly, the lead performance by the Berlin teenager (age at the time of filming anyway) is chilling, and impactful. We watch, accompany and feel his transformation intimately. In my last comparison with "American History X," I assure you the lead in this movie is every bit as dense and intense as Edward Norton was.

    Too bad it has not been shown (yet, perhaps) to more international audiences. I saw it in late October 2002 at the São Paulo Film Festival. I do definitely recommend it (my rating 10/10). See this one on the big screen when it comes your way.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** Führer Ex is an impressive work about the rise of Neonazism in Eastern Germany and a precise portrait of a society where this could happen. Its a possible eye-opener especially for a younger audience, realisticly depicting violence in prison and by neonazi-groups against leftist "Rats" and foreigners. It strongly draws its realism from the real life of co-writer Ingo Hasselbach, who in the early 90s was head of an notorious Neonazi-faction that spread fear and violence in parts of East-Berlin. Later and with the help of director Winfried Bonengel he found his way out and cofounded the EXIT-program for former extremists.

    Mainly focusing on the friendship of two buddys Heiko and Tommy growing up in East-Berlin in the late 1980s, it shows two punkish rebels with dreams about going to capitalist Australia, "because there you are completely free and can do what you like". Maybe this illusion just comes from seeing all the same faces everywhere, or going to the same bar everynight. At first it's just minor offences like peeing on the "official" GDR-newspaper, then burning the flag, in the end they try to flee and climb over the wall. But they are caught and put into prison. This is where the film finds its center: Faschist gangs and Skinheads are ruling the prisons in East-Germany even under Communist rule. The regime breeds its enemies while it officially preaches its anti-faschist stance regularly as being the fundation and reason for the state. But in prison being nazi is the most extreme way to protest against the ruling ideology of socialist brotherhood.

    The two buddies at first choose different ways to survive the brutality in prison: Tommy finds refuge by joining the right-wing group on the block while Heiko tries to walk alone - until he is raped in the bathroom by another inmate. He than joins hands with Faschist-leader Friedhelm who feeds his followers with old-time Nazi-ideology. Tommy is able to flee to the West. But when he returns to Berlin a couple of months later after the fall of the wall he finds his friend hardend and as being the leader of the pack, holding speaches, wearing brown uniform-shirts and setting fire to a food-stall because the owner is Turkish. After the death of young girl in a street fight, Tommy turns away from the faschist-group. And a dramatical final even Heiko finds a way out.

    Its a raw and energetic direct movie with minor weaknesses in character-drawing and when it comes to finding a deeper explanation for the turnaround of the two buddies. Nevertheless its a movie that was highly necessary. The message to East-Germany might still be a shock for some people: That faschism and neonazism, racism and intolerance is not an import from the West but was lingering in the underground of their own GDR. P.S. String-parts of the soundtrack are often highly irritating.
  • Führer Ex is a challenging, harsh, and intensely involving tale of the course of friendship of two young lads living in the 'prison' of Communist East Germany in 1986. Based on fact (Ingo Hasselbach's book 'Die Abrechnng' adapted for the screen by Douglas Graham and director Winfried Bonengel), this story relates the changes that occur in the close friendship of two boys torn by the confinement of the East German Communists vs the Western freedom of West Germany and the countries not under Communist control. It informs us about that transition with the fall of the Berlin wall and the subsequent adjustment to the new form of life East Germans found beyond the crumbled wall.

    Heiko (Christian Blümel) is fair-haired, virginal, nice guy who longs for adventure (and more) with his idolized friend Tommy (Aaron Hildebrand), an edgy guy unafraid to get into a bit of trouble (Tommy is arrested for a minor crime and is released from jail shaved and tattooed). The two dream of escaping their rigid lives and fleeing to Australia. Tommy talks Heiko into running the risk of actual escape and together they break through the wires and walls that confine them but are apprehended in their attempt and sentenced to prison in a cruel Communist prison where they are separated, Tommy joining a 'neo-nazi' group and Heiko falling under the 'protection' of a fellow prisoner who eventually rapes him. The two finally are able to talk and plan a mutual escape, hopefully placing themselves in boxes to be transported to freedom. Tommy succeeds; Heiko doesn't and remains in prison.

    Flash forward to 1989 and the Berlin wall is down. Tommy is living a comfortable life in the new Berlin and encounters Heiko in a true Neo-Nazi meeting that Heiko is leading. The tables have turned - Heiko is the miscreant and Tommy is the good guy. Convinced that Tommy is a traitor to the ideals of Heiko's political interests, Heiko surfaces all of the hate that brewed in prison and is focused on unjust governments. An event occurs that alters their friendship and Heiko is forced to see that varying political climes and convictions pale in the value of treasured friends.

    The film is well paced and the acting is excellent. There are gaps in the script storyline that result in some confusion for the viewer, but the overall impact of the 'biopic' nature of the movie is powerful and deserves attention. It is particularly fitting that this film comes out of Germany, as though it may be a purging of sorts over the initial division of East vs West Berlin. And forgetting about the political aspects of the story, this is a powerful document on the importance of commitment to long-term friends. Recommended. Grady Harp
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Apart from a few disappointing aspects, I really enjoyed the movie. I think the two main actors did an excellent job. Aaron Hildebrand (as Tommy) started out as a daredevil kind of bad guy, awed by his friend Heiko, and he kept up this attitude throughout the whole movie. It's only when the circumstances around him change for the worse, especially in the last part of the movie when he's confronted with the Neo-Nazi's who want to tow him in, that we see how, in comparison with the others, he has in fact the better character: maybe a bit streetwise, but with both feet firmly on the ground, and loyal to his friend. Hildebrand definitely has charisma and a very easy and natural way of acting.

    Christian Blümel (Heiko) was very convincing too as the susceptible youngster who looses his innocence by brutal force. He's really a very promising actor, see for instance the scene where he is visited in prison by the girl he loves, he's just so moving in his bewilderment and happiness and shame all at the same time! But he especially deserves high credits for his performance during the crucial scene with the sexual assault in the showers (in uncompromising full frontal nudity!), he succeeded in making the emotional impact very believable, totally overwhelmed, not being able to counter-act and at last physically and psychologically devastated. And later on in the movie Blümel's portrayal of the slickly groomed Neo-Nazi, shouting his speech with a distorted face to a Sieg Heil-yelling mob was very blood-chilling.

    On the other side there were several things amiss in this movie. For instance: to me the transition of Heiko was too abrupt. He's jolted into the isolation-cell as someone who loathes the Nazi's, but when he at last stumbles out we see him shake hands with the local Nazi-leader, and in the next scene (several years later) we suddenly see him as a Neo-Nazi-leader of his own. We don't get to witness any gradually change to make this understandable. Or are we supposed to believe that being locked up for who knows how long turns you so insane that you end up being a Nazi?

    The guards in this fierce communistic prison all seemed a bit puffy and aging, as were most of the inmates, who hardly seemed a realistic physical threat to an athletic boy of twenty-something. And the escape from prison by Tommy lacked any realism whatsoever: it's totally unbelievable to me that an inmate in such a notorious and supposedly well-guarded prison can just hop into a crate (in broad daylight and among a crowd of co-workers and guards) and let himself be carried out into freedom. Weren't they supposed to check outgoing vans with dogs or something??

    And then I was also a bit disappointed in the ending: after the touching scene on the roof (Tommy dying in the arms of Heiko) we abruptly change to Heiko (some undefined time later) walking briskly and with a serious face through a sunny street in an (undefined) place. That's it: the end. So what are we supposed to conclude? Did he come to his senses after Tommy's death? The fact that his hair wasn't slick anymore possibly refers to that. But then how did he escape his fierce Nazi-friends?? Or did he maybe run of to Australia (Tommy brought him the tickets right before he died). Maybe that's exactly what the director wants us to do, to brood over this, but to me this last scene doesn't work, it doesn't add up to anything, it's just confusing. If anything, I would have preferred an ending with the scene on the roof, Heiko like a Romeo with his dead Juliette, crying out his despair and anger to heaven.

    All considered, the positive predominates: an emotionally involving and well acted movie.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The story of the rise and redemption of a neo Nazi leader in Germany, this movie lacks the emotional depth when compared to American History X.

    We first see the two characters of Heike and Tommy as miscreants in the waning days of Communist East Germany. Typical of many youths of the era they know that the state ideology rings hollow, and spend their days committing minor acts of vandalism and drinking beer.

    A minor run in with the law lands Tommy in prison, and upon his return the two hatch a scheme to escape to the west. The plot fails, and they end up in the slammer.

    The first part of the movie was pretty good. We see Heiko as a rather naive and well meaning kid, albeit one without much of a backbone. His mother has a rather distant relationship with him, and we see a rather interesting rotation of her male visitors throughout the movie. Unfortunately the film does not really touch upon his feelings on that matter much. Heiko hooks up with a rather wild girl, whose impulsive behavior causes some problems, but he seems to be rather quick to move past the situation.

    The character of Tommy is much stronger than that of Heiko. We see he's the more daring of the two, but at the same time has much more strength to his personality than Heiko. Tommy is bad because he wants to be, whereas Heiko is just along for the ride.

    Their stay in prison opens the second act of the movie, and here is where the movie hits its peak, and quickly deflates. Prison in East Germany is no different than anywhere else, with the usual plot elements. Heike ends up joining the Nazis for protection, while Tommy manages to escape to the west.

    And here is where the movie completely falls apart.

    We cut to Tommy returning to East Berlin after the fall of the wall, where he encounters Heiko leading a Nazi rally. Tommy rejoins the movement, and he is somewhat bothered at Heiko's attacks against the Turks and other enemies. There is a death, and the disenchanted Tommy abandons the movement. Heiko is sent out to remove the traitor, and the movie reaches its somewhat predictable finale.

    The movie has Acts I, II, and IV, but act III is missing. We have the set up of the story in the first part, the experience of Tommy and Heiko in prison, and then cuts to them reuniting outside of prison. I wanted to see Act III, what happens to Heiko after Tommy escapes, how his indoctrination into the Nazi philosophy takes place, his release from prison, his adjustment to the new Germany, his relationship with his girlfriend and mother as this goes on, etc.

    Instead we practically cut from Heiko walking funny in prison to Heiko torching a kebab stand. Before and after works well for diet commercials, but not movies of this sort. The whole point is the process of transformation, and for some reason the director chose to omit this. In American History X this is accomplished through the prison narrative from Derek to Danny. We miss that part here.

    That being said, there are a few reasons to see this film. The character of Tommy is well played, Aaron Hildebrand bearing a striking resemblance to Freddie Prinze Jr, which makes it kind of fun to watch. The setting is pretty interesting as well, a time and place gone by.

    But overall this movie is missing that certain something to make it rise above mediocrity. To non-German audiences this might be worth while to watch for the sheer novelty value, but if you're looking for some emotional depth to a film, American History X is much better in that department.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Fuehrer Ex is a film about East German Teens living in East Berlin in 1986. The Story revolves around 2 Characters, Heiko, Who looks up to his best friend Tommy, and Tommy who is obsessed with escaping East Berlin to the west. Tommy got himself arrested, because of Anti-Communist Behavior. In Prison Tommy got introduced to Neo-Nazism, and was released as a radical who wanted to convince Heiko of his new found religion. Heiko had no interest, but still remained a friend to Tommy, even after Tommy slept with his girlfriend. Tommy Convinced Heiko to escape to the west. But they got busted and send to prison. In prison Tommy Joined the Skin head Gang, while Heiko was being raped and abused by fellow inmates. Tommy still tried to protect Heiko, even though Heiko did not join the skinhead gang. One day heiko decided that he had enough of being raped, so he stabbed one of his cell mates, and ended up in solitary confinement. One of the prison supervisors blackmailed Tommy, by either informing the state of the neo-Nazi movement, or his friend heiko will be left in solitary confinement to rot. Tommy agreed with the Stasi and Heiko Joined the Neo-Nazi Group. Tommy then escaped Prison and made it to the east, while Heiko was left behind. Since Heikos protection was now gone, he became really involved with the Neo Nazis. Years pass and the wall fell in 1989. Tommy returned to East Berlin to find Heiko, but he as become a leader in the Neo-Nazi Community, in the meantime it seams that Tommy curved his neo-Nazi views. Heikos superiors had a copy of Tommy's Stasi File and discovered that Tommy was working for the state as an informant; they marked Tommy as a traitor and ordered heiko to kill Tommy. When heiko confronted Tommy, Tommy told heiko that he went over the top, and told him to forget the Nazis and run off to Australia with him. Then Tommy was killed by the neo-Nazi gang and the film ended with Heiko walking through the streets, just like Mark did at the end of Trainspotting.

    The Film was good in a sense of its graphic depiction of East German life, and prison violence. The ending was kind of week, and the story took a long time to get to its point. it has its similarities with History EX, but really it was a different story.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Führer Ex" is certainly as baity as it gets and I guess they had success with that as this fairly mediocre movie is a lot more known than it really should be. Director here is Winfried Bonengel and he also adapted Ingo Hasselbach's autobiographic work for the screen. Still I think there is a reason why nobody from the cast really (with one exception, I come to that later) is in famous fames these days anymore and same also goes for Bonengel who went on to direct terrible television series after this project and none of the works he made before or after this one comes close to this one in terms of popularity.

    The movie runs for 100 minutes and tells us about the lives of 2 GDR citizens who are sick of their country and try to flee. However, instead of becoming respectable FRG citizens, they switch to the other side and end up on the far right. Most of the movie is about depicting what happens when they were in jail. Easily the best thing about this film is Dieter Laser, he is the one I was referring to previously as he is still well-known today. He plays a prison inmate who killed his wife and talks all about self-defense, but it becomes so obvious that this is not what happened. That scene, as brutal as it was, was also pretty hilarious because of Laser's insane line delivery. Sadly, the rest of the film is almost in its entirety forgettable and there are very few memorable moments. Even the ending does not feel authentic, but just dramatic for the sake of it. I do not recommend this film.
  • Do you want to make a film? A german film? Well, let´s take the old GDR, put some Neonazis in it, add some people who want to leave the GDR and get jailed. All in all take every prejudice you can find about these topics, mix it all up, and crochet a far-stretched story around it. Et voila! Still want to see the film? Take beer with you. Or wine. Or both. Lots of it. Then the film might be OK.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a well acted BUT not convincing tale of two late teen lads in East Berlin in 1986,there eventual arrest for trying to escape to the west,there time in prison and how they change, & the eventual tragic ending after the wall comes down in 1989.

    This should have been a much better movie, but sorry to say it is not.

    I for one have seen many (maybe too many) prison films with troubled youths in them. A few years back we had American HISTORY X which was far superior on every count. HBO had a 5 year program called OZ, where we had nearly the same type of story & people. It too was far superior. Even going much further back there haver been similar type stories

    Another problem I had was the editing,some changes in scenes were not very clear,maybe it was because we did not know who the various people were.

    The subtitles are clear & easy to read,

    ratings: **1/2 (out of 4) 69 points (out of 100) IMDb 6 (out of 10)
  • definitly the worst film i've seen in years. don't be impressed by the subject of the film. the audience at the preview was either in hysterics on the floor from the incredible bad acting, or they left beforehand in disgust at the shabby treatment of the story. imagine one of the best stories you ever heard - in this case a true story - and now imagine the worst tv treatment - then you're not halfway there. the worst acting, boring, totally unrealistic (how did they manage to do that i don't know), unbearable dialogs...i could go on. i beg you not to see it. it's an offense to any thinking person, and totally gives a wrong image of what and how east berlin really was. the saving grace is one of the leading actor he deserves better and is - hopefully - a star in the making, and no it's not the blonde...:-)