Thursday, 22 February 2018

Fack Ju Göthe (4 Stars)

Wow! I never had a teacher that cute when I was in school! I would have brought her an apple every day. Or maybe a banana.

"Fack Ju Göthe" is a German comedy film made in 2013. It sold over seven million cinema tickets, making it the most successful film of the year in Germany. I'll let my readers figure out for themselves what the title means. It's a high school comedy and a romantic comedy at the same time.

Zeki Müller is released from prison after serving 13 months for a bank robbery. That might not sound like much, but German prison sentences are lenient for crimes that don't involve violence. One of his friends hid his share of the money by burying it on the grounds of the Goethe High School. Unfortunately a new school gym has been built over it. Zeki decides to dig a tunnel under the gym, but he needs access to the school. He applies for a job as school caretaker, but due to a mix up by the school's chaotic headmistress he's hired as an assistant teacher.

Tough guy Zeki dropped out of school when he was 16, but that's not a problem. All he needs is a pair of glasses to look intellectual. He's incapable of teaching the children anything, but he only needs to pretend to be a teacher long enough to dig the tunnel. He takes over as the teacher of class 7a. He tells them he'll give them all an A as long as they do whatever he says. He wants them all to bring their favourite film to school on DVD so that they can watch a film together every day.

That's the life. But where does the beautiful teacher in the first picture fit in? I'm sure that my regular readers already recognise her as Karoline Herfurth.

I need to backtrack. An assistant teacher was needed because the teacher of class 10b had tried to kill herself. She jumped out of the window because she couldn't handle the class, made up of antisocial misfits who mercilessly plays pranks on their teachers. Lisi Schnabelstedt (Karoline Herfurth), the inexperienced young teacher of class 7a, is transferred to 10b. Zeki Müller is given 7a because it's an easy class. Lisi is close to suicide herself, but she has a way out. She's the only one who knows that Zeki's university degree is a fake, so she blackmails him. She won't tell anyone as long as he requests to swap classes with her.

Elyas might not be a good teacher, but after a year in prison he feels at home with the kids in 10b. They're bad boys, but he's the baddest. On his arrival they play pranks on him, but he accepts no nonsense. He shows them who's boss by punching them or shooting them with a paintball gun. This wins their respect, and he also likes them, because they remind him of himself when he was younger. He takes them on school outings to visit drug addicts and prostitutes. "Do you want to end up like this?" The shock inspires the kids to work harder in school. He organises a school production of "Romeo and Juliet" rewritten in modern German slang. The kids all love him.

At the same time a romance is developing between Zeki and Lisi that follows the standard rules of romantic comedies. Arguably, this only a subplot, but it's what I like most in the film. I'm biased. Whenever I see Karoline Herfurth smile I go weak at the knees. Zeki and Lisi's relationship is built on shaky ground. She knows that his university certificate is a fake, but she assumes he's just trying to cover up that he was an average student. She has no idea that he's a criminal.

"Fack Ju Göthe" is hilarious. It's proof that Germans are capable of making comedies. It's much better than the recent English St. Trinian's films. The film has only been released in Germany, but the German Blu-ray has English subtitles. It's worth watching by anyone who enjoys good comedies.

The film was made as a one-off, complete in itself, but two sequels have already been made. I'll probably watch them soon.

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