After a long time I went to the student cinema again tonight to watch Agnes und seine Brüder, a German film that was in cinemas and is about three brothers who took very different ways in life. Seeing the film’s title, the first reviews and the cast with German ‘star’ actors like Moritz Bleibtreu and Katja Riemann I didn’t want to see the film in cinema. With the title giving away that one of the brothers actually is a girl now, everything just reminded me too much of the gazillions of German films with the same actors with gay/lesbian/trans-whatever people in them just because it was hip at the time. Those weren’t great films.
But it turned out that my judgement was a bit premature. Not only is the acting tolerable – I’d even go so far to say that Katja Riemann was rather good for a change – but the whole story about the transsexual Agnes isn’t the main point, unlike what the title suggests.
Rather, the stories of three brothers, Agnes (born as Martin), Hans-Jörg (eek, just Karl-Heinz would’ve been a worse name) and Werner are told. Each of them seems to have had a difficult relation to their father but not much is revealed about that. Hans-Jörg blames his dad of having abused him, though. Agnes seems to have settled well in her new life and is working as a go-go dancer. In fact, her story remains the most mysterious one in the film and we don’t get to know a lot about it apart from a former boyfriend for whom he originally made the sex change. She also seems to be the most normal/sane one of the three brothers. And, refreshingly, the whole sex-change story just doesn’t play a role in the family. Just when meeting her son, the boy is told not to call her dad…
Hans-Jörg is a library clerk and sex-addict. What a brilliant idea! The supposedly boring library job, along with the unfashionable people who do it. But then there are the users! His library (not ours, unfortunately) is crowded by scantily dressed hot girls. Sometimes he helps them or tries to date them. But mostly he follows them into the ladies loo and watches them do their business while jerking off. In his self-help group he gets to know a porn-producer who invites him for work… during which he gets to know his perfect girl.
The third brother, Werner, is a green politician (who might just hint at our environmental minister) whose marriage has gone downhill and whose son is starting to grow out of his control. While he got to know his wife at demonstrations in the 1980s, they now lead a nice upper-middle class life. Things go quite wrong for them, but seem to come together a bit too well in the end. In the film there’s a fantastic dialog between and his son where he tells his son that he should crop the dope he planted in the garden because people can see it from the road.
Three very different stories, with rather weak connections between them, mostly through the strange and mysterious father. It’s not really clear what the point is and perhaps the three stories aren’t interwoven enough to make a single film. On the other hand, the film is full of surprises – with my sketch being rather incomplete as to not spoil things. And those surprises lead to quite a few laughs, despite things not going too well for the people in the film. In total, I wouldn’t say it’s brilliant – with some ideas having been seen before in American Beauty – but it may be worth watching another time to see whether the different stories come together a bit more and to enjoy it. I also thought that it seemed to be much shorter than the 115 minutes it takes – which usually is a good sign.
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