1 April 2005 | lual
Having seen "Barfuß" today with a friend of mine, I have to say that in many ways it is better than I expected it to be.
Til Schweiger gives a remarkably good performance and obviously his ability in directing has improved since his last major effort "Der Eisbär". Johanna Wokalek is THE reason to see the film, though, and fortunately Schweiger knows this pulls himself back and gives her the ability to shine. Her performance of Leila is sweet and touching and she manages to provide the movie with a light touch as well as a necessary seriousness.
From the get-go it is clear that this movie is not supposed to be a real drama but rather a tender and poetic fairy-tale. It was important to stage it that way, because if the film had focused too much of the realistic aspect (Leila's handicap and Nick's downfall from his family background) it would easily have failed. This way, it walks a very fine line between comedy and drama quite well.
However, I have some major quibbles with the finished product. First, I think the movie cannot really make up its mind, which genre it wants to belong to, usually I like genre-bastards but this movie pretends to be a road movie for so long, that once it gets done with the road movie one wonders when the movie will finally be over.
Also, there is one moment in the story, when the movie steps over the above mentioned fine line between comedy and drama too much. I won't mention details but when the protagonists finally reach the wedding of Nick's brother, which is supposedly the end of their trip together, they both humiliate themselves at the party very much. I admit that I get uncomfortable easily when characters I like humiliate themselves, but to me this part was pretty hard to take, as I just wished for Leila and Nick to get out of there as quickly as possible, knowing they would not be able to leave just like that. (on the plus side, I guess it shows, that Scheiger is capable of making us feel for the characters, though).
Schweiger has mentioned often, that this movie has been really dear to his heart from the beginning and watching the film one can see this clearly. I believe he also wanted this to be a film that he made with a lot of friends and people he admired. Thus many German movie and TV stars such as Jürgen Vogel, Michael Gwisdek, Armin Rohde, Markus Maria Profitlich, et al. appear in cameos. While I usually enjoy a little game of "spot the celebrity", in this particular rather sweet and touching story it seemed out of place and became quite annoying to me after a while to see all kinds of stars (what was Axel Stein doing there, by the way?) having one funny moment to share.
Oh, and one last criticism: After "Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei" ("The Edukators") this is the second German movie in a short while to use Leonard Cohen's "Halleluyah" in its soundtrack. While I really love the song, to me in movie history it will always be connected with "Shrek". So PLEASE you German filmmakers everywhere: come up with something new or original if you want to illustrate a bittersweet moment. It really tears the viewer out of the context and seems like a cheap rip-off.
These points aside, "Barfuß" is a very fine movie, beautiful to look at, moving and with wonderful actors in it.