Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Wer früher stirbt, ist länger tot (4½ Stars)

I watched this film 10 days ago and hardly understood it. The problem was the Bavarian dialect. Even for fluent German speakers like myself Bavarian is a problem. I should have turned on the subtitles, but I thought I would try to understand it. A big mistake. Today I watched it again with subtitles.

It took me a while to figure out the best translation for the title, but eventually I settled on "The sooner you die, the longer you're dead". The film is a black comedy that follows the journey of Sebastian, an 11-year-old boy, from death to becoming a rock'n'roll star. It's not just a journey to stardom, it's also a spiritual journey. How can a devote Catholic boy who's torn apart by guilt find happiness? It's not easy if you live in the mountains of Bavaria.

The film opens with photos of rock stars who died before their time: Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain. Then we see Sebastian get run over by a truck as he cycles home. Miraculously he survives, but his life will never be the same again. Sebastian releases the truck's brakes so he can retrieve his bike, and the truck rolls into a wall, killing his father's rabbits. His older brother tells him that this is just the latest in a series of murders Sebastian has committed. Their mother died in childbirth, so Sebastian will be cast into Hell for killing his mother. Inspired by the Frankenstein films he tries to bring the rabbits back to life, but when he puts electricity into them they explode. From then on things only get worse. He holds his cat under water to test the statement that cats have nine lives, but the cat dies anyway. He pushes his neighbour's grandmother's bed outside to enjoy the sun, but the bed rolls down the hill and the grandmother dies. There's no way he can escape Hell.

Or maybe there is a way. Thinking logically, Sebastian decides that if he never dies he'll never be judged and go to Hell. The disc jockey in the local radio station tells him that rock stars are immortal, so Sebastian steals a guitar and begins to take lessons.

This is an incredible film that grows on me more every time I watch it. I need to watch more of Marcus Rosenmüller's films. He also directed "Summer in Orange", which is possibly my favourite film.There seems to be a pattern to his films. They both take place in Bavaria, and a child is the main actor, even though they're films made for adults.

Here's the film's theme song, performed by Gerd Baumann, who briefly appears in the film as the fictional dead rock star John Ferdinand Woodstock. It contains a few scenes from the film. I love the song, I've watched the video over and over again.

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