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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Der Böse Onkel (The Wicked Uncle)

Germany | Switzerland  2011
Starts April 11

Directed by: Urs Odermatt
Writing Credits: Urs Odermatt
Cast: Miriam Japp, Paula Schramm, Jörg-Heinrich Benthien
Length: 98 minutes

der bse onkel - the wicked uncleArmin (Benthien) is the sport instructor in a small Swiss village. Trix Brunner (Japp) moves to the village with her teenaged daughter Saskia (Schramm). Soon, Trix suspects that Armin sexually molests his female students. She goes to the authorities but they protect Armin; after all he is the pride of the place, having participated in the Olympics in his youth.

Adapted from the play of the same title, both play and film are written and directed by Urs Odermatt. The plot is not important. After all, for the first ten minutes, you think you are in the wrong film and, in the end, you wonder if you were actually in a film or an art installation. Once you’ve accepted that you may never quite follow the action, you can lean back and enjoy the acting: the biting remarks, the so-called innocence of young girls, the inappropriateness of people in power, the bulldog courage of a mother who refuses to back down – all in a staccato tempo and a German which you might even understand, considering that it’s Switzerland, but the language isn’t exactly Swiss-German. Often the actors sound like they are reciting some kind of modern poetry. “Gruß Gott. Ja, wenn ich ihn sehe.” “Love is like small change: you pay and it’s never enough.”

Urs Odermatt originally wrote the story as a play which performed successfully in theatres. Now he has revised it into a screen play and filmed in the Swiss canton of Aargau. It’s completely off the wall. One could just as easily rate it with one star as five, depending on your outlook. I enjoyed it, but at the same time had to pinch myself to see if I were really in the cinema or in some insane asylum with no ties to reality, a very surreal feeling. The plot doesn’t always connect logically, which lets weird people pop up with yet another opinion. The individual characters, e.g., four teenaged girls naked in the shower, a hard-core journalist named Koniecka , a man hanging himself in his attic, protesting mothers, etc., are each a small film in themselves. Best of all is Armin, whom we love to hate; he is so full of his charms, and actually, he is hard to resist while playing the guitar naked in the gym dressing room. It would be interesting to see the original play for comparison. How would they do the nudity, pornography, farting on the john, and yelling? It’s important to understand German, but worth a try if you are open to new ideas for achieving social justice. Director Urs Odermatt has been successful in German theater since 1993. He has been filming since 1985, not only for the cinema, but also for television with high prestige shows such as Tatort and  Polizeiruf 110. ()

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