Opening 18 Feb 2010
After her successful Kirschblüten Hanami, Doris Dörrie is back once again, this time with a film about a middle-aged woman deep in the high rises of former East Berlin’s Marzahn neighborhood. Kathi König (Gabriela Maria Schmeide) is a hugely overweight hair dresser who can’t find a job because, as one potential employer says, “This profession is very aesthetic. You are not at all aesthetic.” For the next ninety minutes Kati attempts to go it alone and open her own hair dressing salon. That’s basically it, but, naturally, there is more as she faces a multitude of hindrances. There is the physical one as she climbs the stairs to her 10th-floor-without-an-elevator apartment and pulls herself out of bed with a jump rope tied to the window sill. She must confront her ex-husband, who is sitting pretty in their one-family suburban home where he lives with his new family. Communication with her teenaged daughter, Julia (Natascha Lawiszus) runs through stages of belligerence, helplessness, antagonism, and love, as they adjust to life together in a small apartment. There is nothing like German Bürokratie to suck all initiative out of the most enthusiastic entrepreneur; she needs the money; needs a plan; needs a permit. This could drive anyone to black market sources of financial aid, such as an old folks’ home (some of the best comedy) or illegal Vietnamese. How many Vietnamese will fit into a small apartment without the caretaker becoming suspicious? New-found friends such as Silke (Christina Große) or Tien (Ill-Young Kim) are dependable to varying degrees. As they say in the film in an altered take on a well-known saying: “as long as the fat lady is singing, it’s not over.” The ending is a satisfying surprise.
The photography seems so typical Dörrie, possibly because her Kirschblüten cameraman Hanno Lentz is back; everything: apartment, clothes, street scenes, etc., features such bright, simple primary colors, all very clear cut. Various overweight people appear, often eating their ways through a carrot or a sandwich. I wonder what effect the popularity of the prize-winning, overweight, German comedienne Cindy aus Marzahn has on the general willingness to protégé fat people in Germany – a phenomenon which is relatively new in Germany (compared to the U.S., for example). Cindy and Kathi both speak the same Berlin dialect (which might be difficult for non-Germans to understand). At the end of the film, you will rush to the hair dresser to get rid of that “permanent wave and silver-grey dye job.” Think: primary colors! (Becky Tan)