BWW Review: Sedona International Film Festival Features HOW ABOUT ADOLF?
Every get-together of the best of friends or couples has the potential of turning into the worst of situations. Just a fact, just a possibility! What unspoken feelings or secrets may lurk beneath the veils of assumed friendship and hospitality? You never know. Only the shadows know until a slip of the tongue, a dare, or an act of mischief tips the table and sets the parlor afire. It is a scenario that has informed such works as Paolo Genovese's oft-adapted ~ the most remade film in cinema history ~ Perfect Strangers (Perfetti sconosciuti).
There may be something in the European waters that bubbles up into the filmmaker's imagination and imbues them with a distinctive grasp of the irony, the ebb and flow, the pushes and pulls of human relationships. As was the case with Genovese, the same holds true with German film director Sönke Wortmann's illuminating masterpiece of satire, HOW ABOUT ADOLF? (Der Vorname).
The titillating question that incites a foray among friends is simply the first of a series of explosive exposures of inconvenient truths about the baggage of history, both personal and national, middle class affectations, and fidelity. So much for a quiet evening by the fireplace.
The hosts of the evening in question are a prototypical bourgeois couple. Stephan (Christoph Maria Herbst) is a self-absorbed and pompous man of letters and minimal interest in helping out with home chores. Caroline Peters plays Elizabeth, the tightly-wound, visibly vulnerable, and dutiful schoolteacher/housewife. Their portrayals as proper but repressed spirits, actually polar opposites, are spot-on great. Peters is riveting when unexpected revelations tip her over her well-kept edge.
Elizabeth's brother Thomas (Florian David Fitz exuding a marvelous sense of feigned innocence and mischief) is the first arrival to the dinner party. While waiting for his pregnant girlfriend Anna (Janina Uhse) to appear, he commences a guessing game about the chosen name for their son. Male names are tossed out like confetti with not an inkling that anyone in their right German mind would name a boy Adolf. As Thomas strings them along, what ensues is a matter far deeper than the seeming absurdity of a name like Adolf. To Juliet's question, "What's in a name," the discussion reveals profound questions about the implications and limits of national guilt and the extent to which a taboo about a name may only hold a nation captive to its past.
Once the name game plays itself out with a playful twist, the stage has been set for a no holds barred surge of revelations involving René (Justus von Dohnányi), Elizabeth's life-long friend and confidante. Is there betrayal in the air?
Then there's Elizabeth's mother, the elegant Dorothea (Iris Berben), who stays in touch from her hillside refuge but whose presence is felt in the end like a hot wire.
At this point, anything further said about what ensues would spoil the fun of this remarkable work. What can be said in closing is that HOW ABOUT ADOLF is in every respect a riveting, provocative, and intelligent piece of satire and socio-political commentary. Claudius Pläging, Alexander Dydyna, Matthieu Delaporte, and Alexandre de La Patelliere can be justly proud about how this superb cast has imbued their screenplay with rich and nuanced performances and how Jo Heim's camera captures the essence of their characters.
I loved this movie and recommend it with high thumbs up!
HOW ABOUT ADOLF? is one of the features at this year's Sedona International Film Festival.
Photo credit to Constantin Film
Sedona International Film Festival ~ https://sedonafilmfestival.com/ ~ 928-282-1177
Saturday, February 22nd through Sunday, March 1st.
Purchase passes at https://sedonafilmfestival.com/purchase-passes/
Multiple venues: Mary D. Fisher Theatre, 2030 W. Highway 89A; Harkins Theatres, 2081 W. Highway 89A; Sedona Performing Arts Center, 995 Upper Red Rock Loop Road