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Review of Bye Bye Germany to be shown at Wpg International Jewish Film Festival - warm, beautiful and funny

April 26, 2018

Reviewed by Jane Enkin       jankeenkinmusic.com

 

Bye Bye Germany Germany/Luxembourg/Belgium

 

Bye Bye Germany is a comedy, but a haunted one – warm, beautiful and funny. It takes place in bombed out Frankfurt am Main, and the main characters are post-war DPs, survivors. They keep themselves going with this grim motto: Never forget. Hitler is dead but we're still alive.

 

The film centres on charming, shady David Bermann and the lovable luftmentshn who gather around him. Bermann is a cryptic figure – he's clearly an accomplished liar, so how can anyone, including the audience, know which things he says are true? The plot takes us through the adventures of the merry band of petty swindlers, with a parallel plot about Bermann's involvement with the American occupying administration. I gasped when Bermann's American, German-speaking interrogator said, “I'm only doing my job.”

 

While Bermann is the central figure, there is a wonderful ensemble cast playing quirky, tender characters. The script gives each of the survivors the opportunity to tell their story, but the stories are interesting and disturbing. Bermann's own past comes in harrowing flashbacks.

 

The performances are terrific. Moritz Bleibtreu as Bermann is charismatic, with just the right balance of tragedy and irony. As American Special Agent Sara Simon, Antje Trau is by turns stern and playful. The many gullible marks are fun to watch, and Bermann's con-men colleagues are a delight.

 

Writer Michel Bergmann adapted his novels for the screen, along with director Sam Garbarski. Garbarski makes terrific use of formal elements – there are starkly realistic shots of Frankfurt, atmospheric, moody darkened streets, and brilliant, colour-saturated scenes reminiscent of Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel.

 

Not a subtle film, Bye Bye Germany fabulously wears its heart on its sleeve.

 
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