Monday, 26 February 2018

Bibi & Tina: Tohuwabohu Total (3½ Stars)

This is the fourth film in the musical comedy series about the teenage witch Bibi Blocksberg and her best friend Tina Martin. The trailer announced that it would be the last film, so I expected that it would somehow tie up loose ends from the previous three parts. Not at all. This is a completely different film in essence and style. Whereas the first three films were fantasy stories for teenage girls, far detached from the real world, "Tohuwabohu Total" is a socially critical film.

Castle Falkenstein is in need of renovation. The Count has appointed a building company led by Dirk Trumpf to do the work. The naive Count wasn't careful what he signed. Trumpf has been given control of the castle, and his main priority is to build a big wall around the castle to stop foreigners getting in.

While Bibi and Tina are out riding they meet a young Syrian boy who has just arrived in Germany as a refugee without his family. A few days later he confesses that he's really a girl. Come on, just look at that photo! How can anyone be stupid enough to believe that's a boy? I've never had problems telling the difference. The girl, whose name is Adea, isn't even from Syria. She's fled to Germany on foot from Albania to get away from a forced marriage.

In the meantime they meet two teenage boys from Syria called Sinan and Karim. They were in a refugee home in Bavaria, but they didn't like it because it was in the remote countryside. They ran away from the home, hoping to find a big city. They don't like Adea because she's a fake refugee. They say that only Syrians should come to Germany. They tell her to return to Albania to get married, because it's a woman's duty to get married and she should obey her father.

Adea's uncle arrives in Germany with his two sons to look for her. The uncle wants to grab her and return home, but the boys want to stay in Germany to get rich. They ask for help from another cousin who fled to Germany as a refugee a year ago. He only went to Germany because he was gay and wanted to live in a country where homosexuality is acceptable, but he has to keep that secret from his relatives.

I can't detect a message in all of these problems. No answers are given. I think that the writer/director Detlev Buck just wants the viewers to know that Germany's refugee crisis isn't as simple as it seems, and the viewers should make up their own minds. Opponents of refugees want to kick everyone out, while supporters of refugees want to accept everyone. Both groups are wrong. Rather than making sweeping generalisations like the current American president, every refugee should be judged individually on a case by case base. Some refugees are fleeing from war zones. Some come from peaceful countries, but they're being persecuted because of their religion or sexuality. Some come from other countries to enjoy Germany's prosperity. It's hard work to examine every single person individually, but it's the only way to be fair to everyone.

This is the first film in the series to feature a car chase, and it's very original. If something similar has already been filmed I don't know it. There's a five-minute chase scene across corn fields in which two cars chase two horses. The cars are faster, but the horses can manoeuvre better. It's exciting and well filmed.

Why does the film series have to end now? Last year this was the ninth most successful film in Germany at the box offices. Fans are already clamouring for a fifth film. The problem is obvious. The two lead actresses, Lina Larissa Strahl (Bibi) and Lisa-Marie Koroll (Tina) were 19 when they made the film, and they're 20 now. It's getting increasingly difficult to take them seriously as 13-year-olds. Makeup can only go so far.

The director has suggested that he can make a fifth film with new actresses. It works for James Bond, so why not for Bibi and Tina? He just needs to be careful with the casting. However well Lina and Lisa-Marie played their roles, they were already too old when they were picked. They were both 16 when the first film was made, which is on the borderline for playing 13-year-old characters. When a film was made about Bibi Blocksberg in 2002 the lead actress was only 12 years old. It's a shame that only one sequel was made, because she was young enough to grow into the role, or rather remain grounded in the role. We can't have a development like Daniel Radcliffe in the course of the Harry Potter films, because Bibi Blocksberg is forever 13.

On the other hand, look at this photo that was taken after the film's release, when the two actresses were six months older than in the film. Even dressed in their normal clothes they still look young. They don't look like they're 13, but they definitely don't look like they're 19. Somewhere in the middle. Maybe they can return for just one more film before they retire. The fans will be happy.

Click here for the official music video for "Tohuwabohu Total".

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