Mein Bruder heißt Robert und ist ein Idiot (My Brother’s Name Is Robert and He Is an Idiot)
It’s hardly surprising that a film which purports to explore the nature, meaning and definition of time takes a considerable amount of it to do so. At just a whisker under three hours, Mein Bruder heißt Robert und ist ein Idiot is an exercise in stamina. There’s clearly nothing wrong with an extended running time if this is what the narrative requires, and a brisk and nimble setup would be unlikely to bring the story to the place where it needs to go with the same (and necessary) gravitas.
A long, hot summer is coming to a close. German twins Robert (Josef Mattes) and Elena (Julia Zange) sit in a field next to a petrol station, waxing lyrical on matters of philosophy. This is to prepare Elena for an upcoming exam on the subject, after which the symbiotic codependency of the twins will be broken when she leaves for university. They take periodic breaks to visit the petrol station for beer, sundries and more beer.
The feature gently unspools in and around the petrol station; nothing more is seen other than an occasional wander into the nearby woods. The stage is kept to its most nominal elements, and for a while it appears that Mein Bruder heißt Robert und ist ein Idiot is just going to be about two young people sitting in a field, rapping about philosophy for three hours (which, to be honest, wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for a piece screening at the Berlin Film Festival). These philosophical ramblings do carry some metaphorical clout, though perhaps not quite as much as writer and director Philip Gröning assumes.
A shift in the narrative sets the story on a more cinematic track, and with the prolonged portion that has preceded it, this change of focus feels entirely legitimate. The nondescript nature on display looks wonderfully alluring under Gröning’s gaze, and the performances from Mattes and Zange are stellar. The protracted duration might be off-putting for some, but it’s precisely the amount of time that Mein Bruder heißt Robert und ist ein Idiot needs to deliver its satisfactory self.
Mein Bruder heißt Robert und ist ein Idiot (My Brother’s Name is Robert and He is an Idiot) does not have a UK release date yet.
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