Germany has not had the best press in the last century or so. But Angela Merkel is doing her best to change that, and films like GoodBye Berlin (Tschick) will go a long way in making her job easier.
Directed by Fatih Akin, this is the story of 14-year-old Maik who is the socially invisible boy in his class. He is infatuated with class beauty, Tatjana, and dreams of someday winning her heart. When a Russian boy with strange clothes and an even stranger haircut joins his class and sits next to him, Maik does his best to distance himself from the new boy. Alas, that doesn’t work as Maik and Andrej Tschick, the new boy, are the only two people not invited to Tatjana’s birthday party. If that’s not bad enough, he’s abandoned at home as his mother goes off to rehab and his father goes off with his mistress, on the first day of the summer vacation. Desperate and alone, he gives in to Tschick’s overtures of friendship, and ends up going on a road trip with him to Walachie in a stolen Lada.
Their adventures on the journey reveal the beauty of the German landscape, less picturesque but more real than the French countryside. The village family they meet, the lake they go skinny-dipping in, and the wind turbines they camp under, all seem like an advertisement for tourism in Germany. The narrative is simple yet engaging, and the growing friendship between the two boys feels more authentic than many love stories. They make you smile, laugh and most importantly, relate to the trials and errors of growing up.
Even if you didn’t catch this at the Mumbai Film Festival, look out for a screening at Max Mueller Bhavan. This is one teen drama that is definitely worth a watch.