"Wir wollten aufs Meer" or "Niemandsland" or "Shores of Hope" is a German 110-minute film from 2012, so this one has its fifth anniversary this year. The writer and director is Toke Constantin Hebbeln and this is the second full feature film of his career. If you take a look at the cast list, you will find the names of Alexander Fehling, August Diehl and Ronald Zehrfeld who are all three of them among Germany's most respected actors these days from their respective age group. And all three are also Berlin-born. However, Zehrfeld is probably not as much in the center of it all like the other two. It's all about the friendship between these characters, even if they share hardly any screen time in the second half of the film because one of them has to go to jail. Another reviewer wrote that this is a must-see if you enjoyed Das Leben der Anderen and I definitely agree with that. This film is a story about the fates of two young men in the GDR and how the political circumstances changed their lives and their friendship irreversibly, to a level where one of them even ends up in a wheelchair.
I think basically everything was done right here starting with the casting of the two lead actors who are really good, but also those who play minor characters are memorable. One example would be Sylvester Groth who worked with the director before that already. And the film manages a perfect mix of political contents and personal stories that are of course connected as closely as it gets. It succeeds from the dramatic perspective and includes a great deal of emotion. I myself was too young back then, but you do not need to have consciously experienced the Unrechtsstaat GDR to appreciate this movie and feel for the characters. And this includes Diehl's character. Regardless of what you think about his approach and motives in creating these fake letters (is he really as honorable as he says?), there is no denying that he is as much of a victim of his days and superiors as is Fehling's character. There were no winners, it's all about keeping the damage minimal.
The film has several truly memorable scenes. One would be the scene in which we hear the recording between Diehl's character and the Vietnamese woman. Another would be the mention of a baby in a letter. And there's more like the violent scene with Fehling's character and his offer to the warden. Or the last meeting between the former friends. The ending is another that comes to mind, not just because it brings back convincingly the sea reference from title as the sea will eventually between him and his mate. Here again, with the last two words, the writers really succeeded in giving this film a slight ounce of a feel-good ending, but yet not making all the drama and tragedy from before that suddenly forgotten. It was handled really brilliantly. Like everything else. This film also offers a gigantic deal of possible discussion subjects, especially involving Diehl's character. I must admit I was surprised though how he rose up the ladder after the conversation I mentioned earlier was recorded. This film we have here is perhaps the best German film from 2012 and it should have received a lot more (awards) attention. This is the film that people should see and not the stupid Schweighöfer garbage. With him in here everybody would have been perfectly united at the end, the friends the families etc and we probably would have gotten at least one awkward sex scene and another great deal of comedy that would not have worked at all and the story would have been all pseudo-important and not important like it actually is. Another reason to thank the casting directors. "Wir wollten aufs Meer" is an absolute must-see and not just if you have an interest in German history. It's an utterly brilliant film, touching, relevant and incredibly well-written while never dramatic for the sake of it and I genuinely hope that Hebbeln returns to filmmaking as soon as possibly with the talent he put on display here.