Directed by: Timo Jacobs | Reviewed by: Sabarno Sinha
‘Forgetting can be liberating’
For the middle-aged comic Charlie Schwarzer, humour has turned into a long-lost friend. Drowning in debt and unable to keep his wife, Emilia or the audience happy, a bomb drops on the failed comedian when he realises that he has been diagnosed with a severe form of dementia.
The film begins in a disoriented atmosphere and the initial confusion serves as a symbol, telling us Charlie’s condition in his own life. The reticent son of a humourist does not grieve at his father’s death but instead lives in the shadow of the towering figure of his father.
Timo Jacobs’ rich use of symbolism throughout the film is an intelligence experience for us. As a result, he doesn’t show us much directly but we have to infer a lot from significant events. This begins from the first climactic scene: the art exhibition where the protagonist not only makes out with a waitress but humiliates Emilia publicly. A mid-shot of her cloth falling from her shoulder reveals much about her own emotions. It is after this catastrophe that Emilia leaves him.
In this scene, we briefly come across the masked men who enter the scene, look around and leave nonchalantly. Jacobs hints to us at this point that these men are more than what they seem. Naturally, when they are the ones who steal the main attraction of the exhibition, “Love”, we are not surprised. These men return the next time Schwarzer does something unexpected for his father-in-law. By this time, the audience well understands that Charlie’s biggest problem is that he gets pushed around by everyone. Be it his father-in-law or his audience or his father’s spectre or his ‘best friend’ Elias, the businessman whose suits are promoted by Charlie, Charlie is never in control of his own life.
When he meets Emilia for the first time after she has left him, Charlie realises that they cannot afford to be romantics in a corrupt world where the most noble men are the most villainous. It is then that he decides that he has to stop caring, start forgetting the wrong things and “step up”.
In the last act of the film, we witness a Charlie Schwarzer who has decided that he’s not going to give into what others want him to do. Be it his father-in-law or Elias, he has his own way with them now. The power dynamic changes when Charlie realises that he can twist situations into his own favour. Sooner than later, he has a trump card dangling over everyone and in his last stand-up piece, he actually stands up for himself, all that he has been and accepts that he had been living in the shadow of a man whose jokes became obsolete ages ago. Charlie hilariously accepts his own disease and with his renewed confidence, he is able to get rid of all the elements of the past where he wasn’t Charlie but someone else altogether.
What is unique about this cliched tale of a man reclaiming agency over his life is the dual setting of comedy and immorality. The colour scheme of the film seems to reflect this dichotomy, altering between cool palettes as well as the neon, psychedelic colours of pubs and bars. At the same time, the cinematography while plain overall has also made use of poignant shots at several instances such as low-angle long shot of Charlie entering the palace of his father-in-law which juxtaposes what happens thereafter. The 20-second montage that comes soon after this depicts a serious crime quite comically but has a profound effect in the future. The eerie music which accompanies for the most part of the film only furthers our sense of alienation and brings us to understand how Charlie himself feels in his environment. Even the lighting is mostly natural and even the ambient light is often ingeniously used to create memorable shadows in the film. If I was asked to complain about the technical aspects, I’d only talk about the sound editing and effects which seem a bit choppy in several instances.
Timo Jacobs’ film reminds us of the loveless world that we inhabit, where men are continuously hankering for ‘Love’. In such a world, where Emilia and Charlie have to fight back, one must remember that ‘Love’ should not be stolen but returned gracefully.
Sabarno Sinha is an undergraduate student of English at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. He was active in the debating and MUN circuit in Kolkata. Sabarno frequently writes short stories, poems and screenplays for short films. A lover of world cinema, Sabarno finds pleasure in watching contemporary as well as classic films from Japan, Italy and Germany among others.