14 October 2017 | Esselgeh
An unconvincing result of what could have been a great story
Based on the true story of 'Bild' journalist Mark Pittelkau, this film tells the story of a young man in post-reunification Eastern Germany, who tries to fulfill his dream of becoming a tabloid reporter by doing a last interview with the overthrown East German leader, Erich Honecker. With no doubt, this would have made a good story for a great and interesting film. But, although containing some good approaches, the result in its entirety is rather unconvincing.
The first hour of the film is almost entirely set in the main characters' Plattenbau neighborhood. This part of the film draws a good picture of the immediate post-GDR years, with both young people and their parents' generation having to deal with the inheritances of the past and the challenges of the present at the same time. However, this picture is not always free of stereotypes, and in some cases this film's main character, Johann Rummel (Maximilian Bretschneider) reminds strongly of a second-class copy of Alex, Daniel Brühl's character in 'Good Bye Lenin', in his mixture of naivety and ever-grinning optimism.
The film's last third finally deals with Johann flying to Chile and meeting the exiled Honeckers. Erich Honecker himself is seen as an old, broken, terminally ill man, who has no other way to deal with the destruction of his life's work than repeating his memorized political phrases over and over again, until finally falling asleep. His wife, Margot Honecker, can be seen as protecting herself and her husband of the entire outside world, which includes a sharp and almost paranoid way of mistrust. While the film manages to present both characters as credible humans instead of caricatures, neither is cast in an entirely convincing way. While especially Martin Brambach definitely tries his best (and the make-up department did so as well), he is clearly too young (and too lanky) to be a convincing Honecker, a dying 80-year-old by the time this film is set.
And finally, while Johann's plan obviously is not met with enthusiasm by his own friends, the film never clearly deals with what should be the main question of this story: Is any reporter entitled to intrude into the privacy of his or her person of interest, with a pack of lies and a hidden tape recorder, even if it might be the most hated person of the entire country? Further, the film leaves no doubt that Johann is not interested at all in the political and historical dimension of the Honeckers, not even in their personal views of the world and their own lives. Nothing counts for him but a great story that would enforce his own dream career. However, the film never clearly seems to doubt that Johann has the right to do this interview, up to the point that the viewer nearly seems to be expected to cheer him for his actions.
I have mentioned 'Good Bye Lenin' before. And when thinking clearly about it, beyond the obvious, there are some deeper coincidences between the two films as well. In both films, the young, naive, but ever-optimistic main character creates an entire pack of lies to recreate communism towards a dying person. However, while Alex in 'Good Bye Lenin' is driven by love, Johann is driven by nothing but selfishness and careerism. A rather sad difference, if you ask me.