© Warner Bros. Pictures Germany

Highway to Hellas
Germany 2015

Opening 26 Nov 2015

Directed by: Aron Lehmann
Writing credits: Arnd Schimkat, Moses Wolff, Aron Lehmann
Principal actors: Christoph Maria Herbst, Adam Bousdoukos, Akillas Karazisis, Christos Valavanidis, Giorgos Kotanidis

“So what happened to the money that we lent the Greek island of Paladiki to build a hospital ward and a power plant?” says Frau Lachinger, manager of the AKU Bavarian Bank. She sends Jörg Geissner (Herbst) over there to get at the truth. Naturally, Mayor Spyros (Karazisis), has spent the money quite differently. He is pursuing “environmental tourism” and buys dynamite to blow up fishing ships that might endanger sea life. Upon the arrival of Geissner, whom they call “Herr Kommisar,” the inhabitants cooperate very little, making his visit as difficult as possible. Let him find out on his own, if he can. He has no transportation except by donkey; they “disguise” an old building to look like a power plant to anyone who is dead drunk, and arrange for Geissner to reach that stage with lots of “holy water” or Greek wine. They dress up like a nurse and a doctor in a pretend hospital, dance, drink, and laugh a lot. They put almost as much effort into deceiving him, as they might have if they had invested the loan as stipulated. Along the way Geissner is faced with language problems, until he meets German-Greek Gigolo Panos, who runs a small grocery store. Panos appears helpful as translator, but he is definitely on the side of the villagers; he has a small son, Dimitri, with Maria, who runs the only hotel on the island. 

There are many clichés, which run bounce around a Nazi-oriented, Merkel controlled, Germany and a laid-back, irresponsible, bankrupt Greece. The topic is pertinent considering  the debates that dominated the media in 2015 over whether Greece should pay its debt to the European Union or even receive another loan, without making major changes in government policies. The best parts of the film are the beautiful scenes on the Greek island of Tinos, located in a group of islands called Cyclades. Christoph Maria Herbst is the upright German in suit and tie, well known from his role in the German TV series Stromberg. Adam Bousdoukos as Panos truly is second-generation German-Greek and lives in Hamburg with his family. He is also a musician and contributed two songs to the sound track with his band Amane. The overall music, composed by Boris Bojadzhiev is wonderfully Greek, all forms of Sirtaki. My colleagues groaned that the final song was by Vicki Leandros, but why not? She is the ultimate German-Greek pop singer. The language flips back and forth between German and Greek with a bit of English, subtitled throughout, which makes it all believable and adds to the confusion which Geissner faces. The title is self-explanatory in its double meaning. The film ends on a good note, each culture having learned something from the other and everyone jumps into the water fully clothed. This is perhaps a good start for a sequel. Let Germany lend them some more money to build a textile factory to provide new clothes.  (Becky Tan) (Becky Tan)

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