Goodbye Berlin – Review

Goodbye Berlin (aka Tschick) is a coming of age film that opened this year’s Durban Film Mart/German Film Focus, with an overwhelmingly positive response from the audience.

The ceremony introduced German Film Focus staff & crew with the special addition of Tschick‘s lead actors, creating a fond connection for audiences to the film. One of the highlights of the ceremony was the brief discussion on German cinema’s current trends and stereotypes, particularly the idea that German cinema is serious and political i.e. lacking humour. Cue in Tschick

The film attempts to dispel this stereotype with a charming, sometimes silly sense of humour that never quite takes its characters or situations too seriously. That being said, its inevitable pitfall is the lack of depth that arises because it dances around any topics that border on serious. The catalyst of the feature is the enigmatic title character, Tschick, who comes barreling at full force into the life of protagonist, 14-year old Maik. The two teens begin a summer adventure at the close of the school year, just in time to propel them both towards a much needed friendship and a desperate need for distraction.  The duo set off on a spontaneous road trip, falling into hilarious situations and meeting colourful characters along the way. One character in particular is Isa, who is a larger than life homeless girl with a story that’s only ever alluded to.

The films brevity lends itself well to plenty of opportunities for situational comedy but what ties together any great coming of age story is a gentle dose of drama or character growth.  The characters here are mildly developed but the film refuses to fully flesh them out, which is a shame as they have so much potential to be groundbreaking characters. The film is a battle of bravery as it tries to push Maik out of his comfort zone yet pulls the reins into cowardice by not letting him have any real, authentic conversations with anyone, including his parents (who are also struggling with their own demons).

Overall, the cast (specifically its two lead characters) are charismatic, likeable  and easily watchable. The tone of the movie is refreshing and the plot is fun and fluffy. It’s also well filmed with great cinematography and feels high budget. I’d say this is an easy please and definitely warms the heart.