18 February 2011 | Doctor_Dexter
A refreshingly honest portrayal of modern life in a multicultural European city
"Zivilcourage" is a rare gem, in the sense that it's a brave and successful effort to truthfully depict the utter seriousness of 'every day troubles' of life in basically every major city in Europe nowadays.
It also happens to be a very good film. Certainly for a TV-production. It's sometimes warm and touching, often chilling and shocking, and always realistic. This is by no means a 'revenge flick'. No stereotypes here. There's a real story to be told, and every step leading to the next is comprehensible.
(EU) Crime-films and -series on TV are usually covered with the smothering blanket of political-correctness. The culprits are never immigrants, and if they are in some rare case, it's always the 'criminal with golden heart' type 'forced' to crime by society and/or a difficult childhood, I.E. 'circumstances beyond their control'. The baddies in these films and series are nearly without fail 'The Rich'. Be it the greedy CEO of a polluting factory, some evil scientist with a 'get rich with dubious pills' scheme or what have you. We often see the obligatory motives like greed and jealousy, but somehow we never see the type of crime reported in the everyday news bulletins. I wonder why. Afraid to 'offend' people? Unwilling to admit that multiculturalism has its flaws?
Do filmmakers and TV-stations really think average Joe & Jane haven't figured out by themselves that all is not well in their cities? Newsflash: they live it! Every day again they experience these problems first hand. So who do they think they're fooling, really?
Covering up problems has never been a solution, nor will it ever become one. First you have to face the truth and be honest about it, otherwise you'll never be able to solve any problems.
And that's exactly what "Zivilcourage" does. It shows these problems honestly and objectively. No stereotypical heroes and bad guys here, but real people and real problems. Everything and (almost) everyone is put into context, from the 'problematic' youths who are at the epicenter of these problems, the tired parents who lost control over their offspring, the worn out citizens who are fleeing the city, to desperate store owners and weary and lax police officers.
So no-one can claim it's one-dimensional without bending the truth. Calling it "right-wing propaganda" or even "racist" is totally ludicrous, not to say in VERY bad taste (Reductio ad Hitlerum). Whoever claims these things is clearly in denial about reality, and unwilling to accept the fact that the 'multicultural dream' hasn't exactly turned out as they had expected. And they haven't understood the film at all.
It doesn't accuse, it depicts certain facts and circumstances. Virtually no-one comes out smelling like roses, and it's by no means a simplistic 'blame it on the immigrants' story. That's nit-picking on one aspect, whilst completely taking it out of context. What then about calling it anti-government? It's not like police and government come off like heroes, or even very competent. On the same level you could say it's "anti-German", or "anti-parents" for that matter...
Curious how the immigrant-issue is being lifted out of context to blame the filmmakers of some 'unsavory double agenda'. Apparently, in many circles it's still 'not done' to say or show anything about immigrants that might somehow be construed as 'stigmatizing'.
It is exactly for this reason that "Zivilcourage" itself is courageous in several aspects. The filmmakers are as brave as the protagonists in their film. Going against mainstream is never easy, certainly not whilst many of your peers still 'go with the flow', avoiding difficult issues.
For their courage alone they deserve full credits, but let's not forget it's also a well made film. The very realistic story is gripping and captivating, the characters life-like.
Götz George is excellent and very believable as the elderly antique-book store-owner Peter Jordan. He clearly shows he is capable of much more than the (be it entertaining) role of "Schimanski" in a very different and more serious role. His Peter Jordan is as fragile as may be expected for his age, but he is resilient, and determined not to look the other way, or be forced out of his life-long neighborhood. His grown-up kids have already left, urging him to do the same, for his own safety. And isn't that the safest and easiest choice, to just look away if something bad happens, and to move away if bad things keep happening? But how long can you look the other way? And where to would you move if the same things happen again? A few of many good questions that arise in "Zivilcourage".
Carolyn Genzkow is also very good as the 'lost', barely literate girl Jessica, who is about to get thrown out of school. At home (if you can call it that) she takes care of her younger siblings and a sickly mother. She hardly has a chance to escape her dim situation, but she somehow realizes she has to do something right now, or flunk out and lose every chance at a better life. This "something" metabolizes as an internship in Peter Jordan's antique-book store. Reluctantly at first, she sees her internship as an obligation rather than a chance, but gradually her mindset changes...
"Zivilcourage" is as much about growing (up), choices, courage, and coping with life, as it is about the problems in a major city.
It's a multi-faceted gem, and as real as you can get.
Warmly recommended for anyone with enough realism to deal with today's issues and a shimmer of interest in what's going on in our cities.
For a decent review, context & background info in German, Google: "Wenn Zivilcourage zum Existenzkampf wird"