Directed by Maren Ade
Country: Germany / Austria
With the farcical comedy-drama “Toni Erdmann”, German director Maren Ade enriches her narrow yet impressive filmography. This is her third feature and an excellent follow-up to “Everyone Else”, a laid-back examination of a couple’s relationship within a peculiar environment, which got accolades in 2009’s Berlin and Buenos Aires Film Festivals.
Despite distinct in nature, “Erdmann” sticks to the topic of human relationships, only this time focusing on father and daughter.
Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller play with all their hearts Winfried and Ines Conradi, respectively father and daughter.
Winfried is a spirited music teacher with a compulsive tendency for off-the-wall pranks. To better succeed in them and fulfill his harmless bizarreness, he often disguises himself of various freakish kinds. Being divorced and with his only daughter living abroad, Winfried’s regular company for some time now has been Willy, an old dog that, with no suffering, ends up dying in the front yard.
This happening marks a transition point in his miserable existence. It makes him apprehensive, not plaintive, though.
The sensations of loss and loneliness get deeper when he thinks of Ines, an ambitious workaholic who hardly has time to talk to his father, not even when she visits him on his birthday. Currently working in the oil industry field in Bucharest, Romania, Ines shows great anxiety and urgency of returning to her work.
Without further notice, Winfried decides to go to Romania to stay a month with Ines, who welcomes him more with respect than enthusiasm. Disappointed and worried with the lamentable life Ines is living, Winfried decides to help her by creating an outlandish persona called Toni Erdmann. He wants to get the horrible taste of the filthy world of business by becoming a cynical insider.
Even distinctive, Ms. Ade’s very-European approach introduces fractions of Michael Haneke’s mordant vision on alienation, Ulrich Seidl’s in-your-face provocations, and Roy Andersson’s half-dark half-absurdist humor in order to proclaim her strong social criticism.
Sometimes there’s only a very thin line separating pretense and honesty, artificiality and authenticity, happiness and sadness…
“Toni Erdmann” is corrosively biting, surprisingly human, gloriously hardcore, and extremely liberating.
After two hours and forty minutes, it leaves us with one simple question: what’s worth of living?