Sibilant Siblings


Uncomfortable family affairs dominate MOMA’s survey of recent German films. Many fiction features are variations on coming-of-age stories, with younger characters in situations of extreme dislocation. Tackling a historical topic with an Oscar-baiting amalgam of melodrama, tough love, and lush scenery, Caroline Link’s Nowhere in Africa displaces upper-class Jews, including a preteen narrator, from icy ’30s Germany into the warm Kenyan bush. The family learns the value of cultural difference through a further series of deathly dull geographic relocations. In Maria Speth’s The Days Between, the lead is older but more immature—an indecisive, uncommunicative bed-hopper. Cleaving close to Tsai Ming-liang’s pattern of urban alienation, the film is largely content to encase its confused protagonist in a cool shell of neon light.

Estrangement regresses to the hormonal level in two highlights. Ulrich Köhler’s confident, droll debut, Bungalow, follows an AWOL 19-year-old German slacker soldier’s anti-dramatic misadventures at his parents’ titular summer home—more a split-level—where he falls for his older brother’s girl, a Danish B-movie actress. Organized around fluid long takes, the film has a keen eye for anxious summertime anomie, and is laconically acted by skateboarder-turned-actor Lennie Burmeister (in a most un-Jason Lee-like turn). Getting My Brother Laid, a truly odd film about the madcap erotic escapades of a 15-year-old girl and her mentally retarded, vampire-wannabe virgin half-brother, teeters on the edge of being both a comedy and a musical (a schoolyard bully is introduced lip-synching to Eartha Kitt’s “I Wanna Be Evil”). Sensationalist ending aside, Sven Taddicken’s curio is an engaging, boundary-pushing exploration of the painfully normal aspects of dysfunction.