Dolmetscher (The Interpreter)
An elderly man, presumably dressed in his Sunday best, disembarks from a train in Vienna. He politely asks passers-by for directions before shuffling to his destination. The man withdraws a gun from his briefcase and slips it into his pocket for ease of access. A sense of placidity with a sudden realisation that trouble is brewing sets the tone for director Martin Šulík’s The Interpreter. The old man is Ali Ungár (Jiří Menzel), the titular interpreter. Orphaned by WW2, he has located the home of the SS Officer who might have killed his parents – or at the very least, knows the location of their final resting place. He instead meets Georg (Peter Simonischek) who informs him that he’s actually the son of the Nazi, and that his father is long dead. A darkly comic exchange follows and Ali heads home to Bratislava.
Ali is short of money, and so he grudgingly agrees to meet Georg when he shows up suggesting an expedition. Georg wants to visit the places his absent father spent time in during the war, and wants Ali to guide him – with a daily fee, naturally. Georg is surprisingly jovial considering he’s planning a tour of holocaust hotspots. This section of the film plays like a geriatric road trip, complete with a jaunty soundtrack. There’s an ironic detachment to the humour, but the piece then becomes more sobering and feels as though it has reached a plateau.
To make a movie set in contemporary times about WW2, it is necessary to address the trickle down effects of the war. It’s almost a generational shift to those who were affected, and yet who can now largely only access second-hand information. A reveal very late in the game changes the dimensions of the events , but The Interpreter doesn’t hang its fortunes on this one telling scene.
Both Menzel and Simonischek are brilliant; each are endearing in contrasting ways. The roguish ladies’ man Georg doesn’t let his age stop him, and the contradiction with the more genial and occasionally cantankerous Ali has a nice odd couple feeling. The Interpreter is an amicable enough diversion, with a true sense of purpose.
Dolmetscher (The Interpreter) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival 2018.