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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Review - My Good Hans (Liebster Hans, bester Pjotr / Milyy Hans, Dorogoy Petr)

Director: Alexander Mindadze – Russia, UK, Germany

Hans (Jakob Diehl) is a member of a small group of German engineers working on creating optical lenses in Russia in 1941 before the two countries went to war. At first, he seems to be the quiet one, the one who is almost forgotten on the sidelines when among his louder, more vivacious colleagues. However, when Hans causes an explosion at the factory which leads to several deaths, tensions rise between the Germans and the Russians.

My Good Hans has two distinct parts. It begins as a sort of drawing room drama. The first act of the film focuses only on the four German engineers in their home. They have been away from Germany too long and there are still no results to be seen in the glass factory. The tensions at work show themselves in their interpersonal relationships with each other and everyone is on edge, everyone except Hans who seems to be the less intelligent one, the one who is simply a sidekick to the others. This quickly changes when the film shifts to the factory and Hans causes an explosion. It is clear that it is no accident, the man simply snaps one day. Despite the deaths they have finally made the perfect optical glass. This success brings joy to the others, but Hans begins to spiral out of control, particularly due to the continued presence of the Russian specialist Pyotr (Andryus Daryala) who is the one person who saw Hans’ actions.

The first part of the film feels almost like a poorly done stage production at a local theater. The characters yell a lot, they wave their arms a lot and walk around in exaggerated ways. When it shifts to the factory, things change. The film becomes more incomprehensible. The constant verbal barrage of the beginning subsides and the audience is left with quiet Hans, who doesn’t feel the need to explain really anything about what he is feeling or why he is going off the rails. His actions become more and more bizarre and the world itself also changes as the Russians become suspicious of his actions and those connected with him. Hans’ character is a clear representation of the relationship between Germany and Russia just prior to the invasion. What starts as an economic cooperation, ordered and normal, breaks down one day and results in suspicion and madness. Thus the stylistic choices of the film itself also are influenced by this relationship and Hans’ representative mindset, moving from logical to illogical as it progresses.

My Good Hans is an interesting film, particularly upon analysis. However, it is often obtuse, the acting seems a bit over-the-top, and it tends to drag for very long periods of time. Perhaps in defter hands this could have been an astonishing film, but as it is, it has little hope of making much of an impact, even within critical circles. (Rose F.)

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