Friday, 17 January 2014

Film #18: Oh Boy (TBC)

Released: 2012 (Germany), 2014 (UK) 
Directed by: Jan Ole Gerster  

Apparently a German film is being released in the UK today. Who knew? I certainly didn’t until I saw that Mark Kermode will be reviewing it on his radio show this afternoon. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be playing anywhere outside London. Luckily, I picked up the DVD when I was in Germany at the end of last year. So while I can’t tell you what the subtitles are like, I can at least tell you about the film.

Oh Boy is one of those films in which nothing and everything seems to happen, showing a day in the life of a nondescript individual whilst reflecting on the human condition. Niko Fischer (Tom Schilling) starts his day with the restrained demise of his relationship, and takes in encounters with psychologists and ticket inspectors (in beautifully realised depictions of bureaucracy), new neighbours and a random old woman. His father cuts off his supply of money. He watches ‘challenging’ performance art. He has an (almost) romantic interlude in the toilet of a club. And through it all the one thing he wants and can’t get is a cup of coffee.

We never really get to know Niko, and my sympathy for him vacillated throughout the film. After taking a punch when his friend Julika is threatened by drunken thugs, he suggests that it is her fault for answering back to them, when she should have taken their insults in silence for an easy life. At the same time, I don’t think I would have been quite so restrained in the scene in which his father berates him for not holding a golf club properly. In the closing minutes of the scene, his lack of focus and motivation – and perhaps a feeling that the world owes him a living – are thrown into perspective by an encounter with a drunken old man. 

I’m surprised this film hasn’t had a slightly wider release; after all, it did win quite a few awards in Germany, and was touted as the country’s entry for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Still, that’s the beauty of the film rental market! If you want a film that's easy to watch but has something to say, I’d recommend it.

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