8th October 2016 5.00pm at Embankment Garden Cinema
9th October 2016 11.00am at Embankment Garden Cinema
After its ecstatic Cannes premiere, there’s a level of expectation that comes with Toni Erdmann. Not all films can live up to their status of “instant classic.” But then again, Toni Erdmann isn’t like most films. Shaggy and long, with a premise that wouldn’t be out of place in a sitcom – a man plays practical jokes on his daughter, whom he is afraid has grown too serious – Maren Ade’s film manages to completely excel as both tragedy and comedy, often in the same breath, thanks to its terrific characters and keen attention to human detail. It deserves be described as one of the best comedies of the 20th century, not just because it’s funny – and it is very, very funny – but because it deconstructs why its humour needed to exist in the first place.
Peter Simonischek plays Winfried Conradi, and Sandra Huller plays his daughter Ines – a forcefully professional consultant for an oil company. After she treats him with aloofness during a visit, he sets out to visit her, along with a set of false teeth and a brown wig, that allow him to assume the alter-ego of “Toni Erdmann”, his made-up twin brother. A keen practical joker, he shows up at the worst possible moments, that threaten to ruin her professional and social engagements. But soon the characters begin to respond in interesting ways, Winfried’s protective form of humour beginning to pierce Ines’ no less defensive performance of ruthless corporatism.
One aspect that reviewers have dwelt on is Toni Erdmann’s length. It runs for 162 minutes, which seems far too long for a comedy to spend on quite a basic premise. But Ade uses this length to give the film a leisurely, good-natured rhythm, that doesn’t skimp on important details. Huller gives a fantastic performance as Ines; she could come off as a cold stereotype, but by spending time with her, detecting her insecurities, regrets, desires, it makes the moments where she does drop her guard – notably during a musical scene – all the more effective. Simonischek is a perfect foil for her, too; his goofiness is rooted in pathos, and an Ozu-like sense of sadness for time lost.
The climax is one of the best sequences of cinema in years. Ade bravely presses on for another 15 minutes; somehow, this, and her film’s other imperfections, actually add to its lived-in, exhilarating charm, and justify its fast-track to the canon.
Toni Erdmann is released nationwide on 3rd February 2017.
For further information about the 60th London Film Festival visit here.
Read more reviews from the festival here.
Watch the trailer for Toni Erdmann here: