Director Faith Akin is often called one of the most important contemporary German directors to have emerged in recent years. Soul Kitchen is Akin' highly anticipated first attempt at a genuine comedy. So far Akin has been has been more involved in the fields of drama and romance. In a recent interview he revealed he was curious to explore a more varied range of film genres which sounds like an interesting plan. In venice this year, the film was celebrated by the audiences and scored the special jury price.
The story revolves around a restaurant/club called Soul Kitchen and the troublesome life of its respectful owner Zinos. He has to overcome many struggles involving his girlfriend, his brother and the authorities. The film is set in the heart of the diverse northern German city of Hamburg, the home turf of the two scribes Faith Akin and Adam Bousdoukos.
The makers of the film call it a new take on the idea of the "Heimatfilm" - a rather preconceived loose genre which basically defines a film to have been made in the makers home country and dealing with issues relating to home and identity.
Akin described how he studied classical sketches by Charlie Chaplin and also looked at his method of working. A simple "joke" that comes off easy and natural on screen had been reworked over and over. For some of the scenes Akin admittedly said he had to shoot 30 takes before it felt right. This made him doubt his own abilities but in the end let him grow as a filmmaker and as an individual.
The result is a stellar solid performance by the entire cast. Many jokes and payoffs will unfortunately and without a doubt get lost in translation but still the timing and heartblood of the actors will still capture anyone's attention.
Akin makes use of a couple of his "regulars": Adam Bousdoukos, Moritz Bleibtreu and the great Birol Ünel but also introduces fresh unknown blood with the two female leads Lucia Faust and Nadine Krüger.
Having just seen another film recently I noticed myself how well this film is balanced out in comparison. There is a rhythm, a beat or a harmony. The soundtrack and editing allow the plot to flow organically and let the narrative play out smoothly. Interestingly Akin once mentioned that since "Gegen die Wand" (Head On, 2004) he is inspired by the songs used in his films in a visual way and sets out a soundtrack before the filming is finished.
The film marks Akin's first shot at wider levels of improvisation. Normally, he said in an interview with a German radio station, he has the script all planned out in detail; all the actors know what their dialogues are and maybe one or two things get changed, with feedback from the people on set but this time a lot of things were left undone on purpose to grow naturally out of the situations.
What I personally enjoyed a lot about Soul Kitchen is the way in which the film addresses its urban environment. Akin took a chance to shoot in a wide range of locations, many of which such the club "Mojo" have since closed down. It attempts to capture the spirit of the city at a point in time and successfully tells an emotional, personal story.
Recommended to anyone with a passion for fresh, clever and funny stories of life and the city.
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