14 April 2016 | tributarystu
A Soulful Escape
As the movie was drawing to a close, the question of whether one could really jump over an oncoming car was nagging me. Some brief research highlighted an increase of the average car height throughout recent decades to about 1.5 meters, but one could certainly go for an aggressive sports car, which only measures about 1.2 meters. The world record for high jump stands at 2.5 meters, but that's a running jump, so can you do it standing still, as the movie suggests?
Putting my metaphorical glasses back on, I'll admit my interest was piqued when the realization came about that this movie is inspired by Werner Herzog's hike from Munich to Paris, in 1974, in support of his mentor, Lotte Eisner. Here, our lead Julian is a young man institutionalized for harboring said belief of car jumping, which ends up causing a tragic accident, wherein his best friend is killed. The story kicks off with Julian's escape from the facility he was being held in, as he aims to walk over 600 km to the house where his friend's father lives, recovering after a heart attack. The point of walking is to focus all his energy towards the father's betterment, in the spirit of a 'holy' pilgrimage. Along the way, Julian meets up with Ju and Ruth, both in need of a long walk to cleanse their unhappiness. All the while, Jan is on their heels, trying to find and return Julian to the asylum.
This constitutes the main theme of the movie, a paradoxical one at that: taking on a selfish/selfless journey, an escape from how the world sees you, how you see the world and how you see yourself. The great thing is that it works really well, as the characters come off stoic and (for the most part) relatable. Julian's quest for redemption, Ju's attempt to emote again and Ruth's struggle to feel self-worthy, alongside Jan, 'the jailer', who finds himself in a purgatory of his own making, make for a soulful exploration. The gorgeous backdrop of the German countryside turns what could have otherwise been an average experience into a tactful bout of escapism. Embellished with moments of both sensitive and caricaturistic humour, the story is packaged tightly until the last fifteen minutes.
This brings me to the two limitations impairing my enjoyment. Firstly, it is guilty of romanticizing away the complexity of the story, as it needlessly and unsubtly provides outlines for both characters and themes. Secondly, the ending is drawn out and too sweet for comfort, as the mystery is shattered and the stars realign.
The reason why I would rather not dwell on these things, is because the cinematic journey managed to inspire me. Upon its conclusion, I had become all silly and was thinking about biking for days or heading out to an isolated cabin in the middle of the mountains. Director Baker- Monteys proves to be a good paysagist of the soul, if not quite the storyteller. There, everyone can be a little pretentious!