Opening 13 Feb 2014
Writing credits: Bettina Oberli, Petra Biondina Volpe, Xao Seffcheque, Sabine Pochhammer, Roland Zag
Principal actors: Stefan Kurt, Annemarie Düringer, Stanley Townsend, Nina Proll, Michael Neuenschwander
This is a subtly entertaining movie about how a stiflingly symbiotic relationship between a mother and her son is resolved. André, an almost irritatingly good-natured man about 50 years old, has been living with his eccentric mother Louise most of his life, driving a taxi to earn a living, spending his spare time building model airplanes, and otherwise looking after his mother. The film shows André holding his mother afloat in a swimming pool and regularly playing cards with her friends, who enjoy the sandwiches he always makes for them. You also see him putting his mother to bed every night and pulling the drapes shut. In return, Louise puts out his slippers every day, right next to her own. These well-chosen scenes very graphically accent the co-dependence of the two.
However, their relationship is based on a myth that Louise has concocted, namely, that Louise had to give up a successful career in Hollywood in order to return to Switzerland to care for André when he was four years old. This legend is destroyed when Louise’s illegitimate second son Bill, who was born in the States and whose existence has been a secret, shows up in Switzerland. The turning point of the movie and the characters’ lives is a mad chase in Spain that ends up with the three of them balancing over a precipice in André’s taxi.
André is played by the wonderfully subtle and talented actor Stefan Kurt, while Annemarie Düringer, a famous actress from the Burg Theater in Vienna, plays his mother. Stanley Townsend, an Australian actor, very deftly depicts the corpulent lost son from the USA on an unsuccessful mission to find his real mother. And Nina Proll plays a kind and worldly-wise sausage vendor who manages to seduce André and give him a new lease on life. The movie is not spectacular, but it is well worth watching it just to see these excellent actors. (Pat Nevers)
Louise (Annemarie Düringer) is an elegant lady in her 80s who claims to have been an actress in Hollywood. She never leaves the house without one of her formidable hats, proudly hanging on to her son. At home she doesn’t even bother to dress but we see her only in her drab old morning gown whilst bossing around the 50-something André (Stefan Kurt) who still lives with her. He even joins his mother’s water gymnastic group, prepares delicious snacks when Louise’s elderly girl friends come over for playing a round of cards. At bed time he tucks in his mother before leaving for his “own room”, the garage, which has been transformed to suit his needs. André builds model planes, flying them on the airport field where he is well respected for his nifty workmanship. Apart from his planes, he takes an interest in pretty Steffi (Nina Proll) who sells sausages to the group of hobby pilots. He even masters enough courage to take her out for a drive in his taxi. But not only are they disturbed by calls from his boss but also from his mother, complaining of bad dreams. Poor Steffi – or poor André? André is unable to make any decisions concerning his own independent life.
When one day a stranger turns up, the cosy routine is interrupted. Bill (Stanley Townsend) claims to be his brother from America. Who is this noisy charmer calling his mother “lovely Louise” or even “mom”? At first André is only irritated but at long last wakes up into action.
Very subtly and slowly the Swiss director Bettina Oberli (Die Herbstzeitlosen), who also wrote the script, lets us discover the deeper character of her protagonists. Nothing is quite the way it seems to be. Lovely Louise is not as lovely and elegant as she makes us believe, André is not as weak as he thought, and Bill is not as rich and successful as he says.
This tragic comedy is a wonderful film about a son-mother relationship. The beautifully framed and long takes by cameraman Stéphane Kuthy emphasize their restricting personal relationship. Stefan Kurt gives his character credibility. Despite very comical situations, his André is never ridiculed. (The well established actor will be known to Hamburg theatre goers. For almost a decade he played successfully at the Thalia Theater.) Adrian Weyermann’s rhythmic music, performed by the “Aeronauten”, gives it a light and positive touch. (Birgit Schrumpf)