Opening 2 Feb 2017
Timm (Friese) is a nine-year-old boy in Germany ca 1920. He has a happy, carefree life with his father, who takes him along to the race track to bet on the horse races. After school he meets up with Ida (Jule Hermann), who often helps her mother (Haberlandt) in the family bakery. He is always laughing, happy, even after his father remarries and brings a difficult step mother and her son (a very Cinderella situation) into the family, even after this same father suddenly falls victim to a questionable accident. Money is always tight and Timm sees no problem in selling off his smile to the devious Baron Lefuet (von Dohnányi). In return Timm wins every bet. He returns to the race track and always picks the right horse. He delivers his winnings to his step-mother which fuels her greed and she demands more. His personality changes for the worse, as does his relationship with Ida. In an effort to escape an impossible life, he gets a job as elevator boy in a hotel, where he also sleeps at night. His new friend Kreschimir (Charly Hübner), also a hotel employee, recognizes his difficulties. Still, a new deal with the evil Baron leads Timm to becoming the richest person in the world. He moves into the Baron’s huge modern buildings, which are a far cry from the 1920 houses shown in the beginning of the film.
This wonderful story with a moral was originally written by James Krüss in 1962 and became a successful children’s book. A TV series showed in 1979 with a follow-up animated version in 2002. Arved Friese, who was 12 years old during filming, is excellent as Timm; he appears in almost every scene and carries the plot. Well-known German actor Justus von Dohnányi is also a wonderfully effective monster disguised as a man with a need for a smile. German-speakers should look at the Baron’s name, Lefuet, and read it backwards for his real identity. All of the film critics in my presentation had grown up with the book or the TV series or both and they enjoyed comparing the former with the present versions. For newcomers, it’s never too late to catch up with Timm and his life; now is your chance to learn about the value of friendships and possessions and what is important in life, a film for the whole family, perhaps everyone eight years or older. (Becky Tan)