Sunday, August 20, 2017
Written and directed by Maren Ade, Toni Erdmann is the story of a woman who gets an unexpected visit from her father as he tries to reconnect with her by pretending to be a life coach for a CEO she’s trying to do business with. The film is an exploration of a father-daughter relationship in which a man returns to the life of his estranged daughter who wants little to do with her father as she’s trying to go for her own ambitions. Starring Peter Simonischek, Sandra Huller, Ingrid Bisu, Michael Wittenborn, Thomas Loibl, Lucy Russell, and Vlad Ivanov. Toni Erdmann is an offbeat and engaging film from Maren Ade.
The film follows a man who spontaneously decides to visit his businesswoman daughter from his small German home to Bucharest, Romania where she is not happy with the surprise business just as she’s trying to finish a business deal. During his time with her, he would create a persona by pretending to be a life coach for a CEO by sporting a wig and false teeth creating chaos wherever he is at. The film’s screenplay by writer/director Maren Ade doesn’t just explore the diverging lifestyles of Winifried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) and his daughter Ines (Sandra Huller) but also Ines’ own ambition in being a consultant in this outsourcing project in the oil industry in Bucharest. Her work leaves her little time to be with family as well as having a life of her own to socialize or do anything spontaneous. When Winifried arrives to Bucharest following the death of his dog unexpectedly, Ines is in shock as she reluctantly has her father accompanying her where things don’t go well.
Much of the first act is about Winifried and Ines as the former accompanies the latter who is trying to get a deal going while the second act is about the persona that Winifried has created in a life coach called Toni Erdmann. Erdmann’s presence would baffle and annoy Ines as he would charm not just some colleagues but also those she’s trying to deal with. Even as she is forced to deal with aspects of her own life that is unfulfilling and often predictable as it would come into play during the film’s third act. Though some of scenes that Ade creates in the script can be overly stretched due to the exploration of the characters as it can meander. It does help show this unique relationship between father and daughter that is problematic but also filled with love.
Ade’s direction for the film is offbeat in terms of her approach to the humor and drama as she would create things that are odd but also moments that are simple. Shot partially on location in rural parts of Germany as much of the film is shot mainly in and around Bucharest. Ade plays into this world that is very modern which Ines is a part of as it’s confusing for someone like Winifried who used to be a hippie that teaches part-time to school children. Much of Ade’s compositions are straightforward as there’s a few wide shots as Ade would favor the usage of close-ups and medium shots while she knows what to do to create something that feels chaotic and spontaneous. Much of it has Ade taking her time where it would lag in certain parts of the film while there are moments that show what Winifried would do as Erdmann does break away from some of the monotony in Ines’ life.
One scene where Ines is having dinner with friends as Erdmann is in the background trying to move his table closer as it is quite funny while the scene where Erdmann and Ines visit a Romanian family on Easter show Ines starting to come out of the shell she had created. Especially in the third act where Ines is forced to see the lack of freedom in her life with her father still just trying to be there for his daughter. Overall, Ade creates a witty yet compelling film about a man trying to bring some chaos into his daughter’s overworked life.
Cinematographer Patrick Orth does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it’s straightforward for many of the scenes in the daytime along with some lighting for some of the scenes at night including a few parties and such. Editor Heike Parplies does nice work with the editing as it is straightforward with very little stylistic cuts in favor to play into the drama and some of the humor. Production designer Silke Fischer, with set decorator Katja Schlomer and art director Malina Ionescu, does fantastic work with the look of the hotel room that Ines lives in the city as well as her apartment as well as the messy house that Winifried lives in.
Costume designer Gitti Fuchs does terrific work with the costumes as it mostly casual with everyone wearing business suits or designer dresses as the big highlight comes in someone wearing this Bulgarian kukeri costume. Sound editor Fabian Schmidt, with sound designers Erik Mischijew and Matz Muller, does superb work with the sound as it play into the different locations and how they’re presented via sound as much of the music in the film is played on location with the exception of the Cure’s Plainsong for the film’s final credits.
The casting by Viorica Capdefier, Nina Haun, and Amanda Tabak is great as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Vlad Ivanova as a Romanian local living near an oil well that Winifried befriends, Hadewych Minis as a Romanian woman Winifried meets as he attends her Easter party, Victoria Cocias as a friend of Ines, Thomas Loibl as Ines’ boss Gerald, Trystan Putter as a colleague and sometimes lover of Ines in Tim, Lucy Russell as a friend/colleague of Ines in Steph, Michael Winttenborn as a CEO named Hennenberg that Ines is trying make a deal with, and Ingrid Bisu as Ines’ young assistant Anca who tries make everything goes to plan for Ines as well as deal with Winifried.
Sandra Huller is brilliant as Ines as a business consultant trying to deal with the chaos in her work life as well as the lack of free time for herself as she is annoyed by the presence of her father as it forces her to see how predictable and dull her life is. Finally, there’s Peter Simonischek in an amazing performance as Winifried as a former music teacher who deals with the death of his dog and lack of contact with his daughter as he decides to surprise her as it’s a calm though offbeat performance for the most part until he becomes the titular character where he is just full of life and absolute chaos.
Toni Erdmann is a marvelous film from Maren Ade. Featuring great performances from Peter Simonischek and Sandra Huller as well as captivating story of a man trying to reconnect with his overworked daughter. It’s a film that explores the idea of spontaneity in life as well as the need to not have everything in control though the film does go overlong in some bits. In the end, Toni Erdmann is a remarkable film from Maren Ade.
Maren Ade Films: (The Forest for the Trees) – (Everyone Else)
© thevoid99 2017