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Review: Tschick (2016)

Maik (Tristan Gˆbel) und Tschick (Anand Batbileg) auf dem geklauten Lada

Directed by: Fatih Akin | 93 minutes | comedy, drama, family | Actors: Anand Batbileg, Nicole Mercedes Müller, Tristan Göbel, Aniya Wendel, Justina Humpf, Paul Busche, Jerome Hirthammer, Max Kluge, Udo Samel, Anja Schneider, Nadine Dubois, Henning Peker, Uwe Bohm,

Wolfgang Herrndorf (1965-2013) started his career as a cartoonist and illustrator. From 2002 he also wrote novels. The German author achieved his greatest commercial success with the youth novel ‘Tschick’ from 2010, about two fourteen-year-old misfits who steal an old Lada and drive through East Germany for a summer. For inspiration, Herrndorf reread the books he himself devoured when he was young – including ‘Lord of the Flies’ and ‘Huckleberry Finn’ – to find out if those stories were really as good as he remembered. “But also because I wanted to experience who I was as a twelve-year-old. I soon realized that those books had three things in common. The adult closest to the protagonist soon no longer plays a significant role, a long journey is made and there is a lot of water. With those elements I tried to make a more or less realistic childhood story. Sailing on the Elbe in a boat sounded ridiculous and shipwrecked people are no longer of this time. All I could think of was something with a car. Two guys steal a car. There is no water involved, but I made up the plot in a few minutes. ”

‘Tschick’ is all about fourteen-year-old Maik Klingenberg (Tristan Göbel), an outcast who is called ‘Psycho’ by his classmates. He secretly dreams of the most beautiful girl in the class, but this Tatiana (Aniya Wendel) does not even notice him. It is equally bleak at home; Although he has a good relationship with his mother (Anja Schneider), her bond with the vodka is stronger. Every summer she goes to a ‘beauty farm’ to rehab. His father (Uwe Bohm) is a property developer, but things are not going as well as he would like. Whether it’s because of this that he’s a nasty man, or if it’s simply his character, we don’t know. But Maik is of no use to him. His colorless life is completely turned upside down with the arrival of a new classmate, the immigrant Andrej (Anand Batbileg), who comes from a distant Russian place, and is called ‘Tschick’ because of his unpronounceable surname. A tall lank with weird hair and unsightly clothes that smells of liquor and shows up at school drunk – or at least tipsy.

Not exactly the friend Maik had in mind, and at first he doesn’t like him. But when the summer vacation comes, and Maik’s parents leave for an indefinite period (mother to the ‘beauty farm’, father on a trip with a very young female ‘colleague’), Tschick suddenly arrives at Maik’s door with a stolen light blue Lada. Instead of moping about being the only two classmates not invited to Tatiana’s birthday party, they decide to go for a drive. They experience all kinds of things along the way – they end up in a corn field and among the cows, they are treated to a meal in an idyllic village and they have a fight with the local police officer. But above all, a special friendship arises, not only with each other, but also with another outsider, the homeless girl Isa (Mercedes Müller), who is on her way to her sister in the Czech Republic. Maik doesn’t care about Tatiana for the entire vacation. Even when he and Tschick have an accident and are called to the court by the juvenile judge, he speaks of ‘the best summer ever’.

An aggressive brain tumor was discovered at Hernndorf in 2010; three years later he decided to outsmart his illness and took his own life. He can still agree to the scenario that Lars Hubrich made, but saw the adaptation of his youth novel no longer premiere. None other than Fatih Akin, the multi-award-winning director of films such as ‘Gegen die Wand’ (2004) and ‘Auf die andere Seite’ (2007) who knows how to deal with themes such as searching for your identity and developing (unusual friendships, was attracted to take the director’s chair. The result is a warm, funny and entertaining film, which, thanks to its universal themes, will appeal to people of all ages. The acting is fine, the locations beautiful and summery, the film has a nice tempo and a varied soundtrack (hilarious running gag is Richard Klaydermann’s cassette tape in the Lada!). Yet there is a critical note: where Akin’s films usually go into depth, ‘Tschick’ unfortunately remains too much on the surface. The themes of loneliness and homosexuality are touched upon, but no more than that. Just like the adventures that Maik and Tschick experience, they remain innocent pinpricks, which are neatly worked out within the lines. It makes the film more accessible to a younger audience, but at the same time also quite solid – typically German. Unfortunately, ‘Tschick’ remains too much on the surface. The themes of loneliness and homosexuality are touched upon, but no more than that. Just like the adventures that Maik and Tschick experience, they remain innocent pinpricks, which are neatly worked out within the lines. It makes the film more accessible to a younger audience, but at the same time also quite solid – typically German. Unfortunately, ‘Tschick’ remains too much on the surface. The themes of loneliness and homosexuality are touched upon, but no more than that. Just like the adventures that Maik and Tschick experience, they remain innocent pinpricks, which are neatly worked out within the lines. It makes the film more accessible to a younger audience, but at the same time also quite solid – typically German.

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