German director of Turkish descent, Fatih Akin, belongs to that group of filmmakers that struggle at some point in their careers after a brilliant start replete with numerous accolades. His undeniable talent was materialized in many prizes with top-rated dramas such as Head-On, winner of the Golden Berlin Bear in 2004, and The Edge of Heaven, Cannes best screenplay and prize of the ecumenical jury in 2007. Even when he adventured himself in comedy with Soul Kitchen, the results weren’t bad at all, but his following steps, the documentary Garbage in the Garden of Eden and the drama The Cut, related to the Armenian genocide, didn’t bring the usual gratification to the fans of his cinema. That’s why his next move was awaited with some expectation.
Mr. Akin opted to have a go at the widely explored coming-of-age topic with the comedy drama Goodbye Berlin, starring Tristan Gobel and the debutant Anand Batbileg as two teen fugitives from Berlin during the summer holidays.
“Confessions, promises, and a mutual understanding that feels truly sweet…”
Gobel is Maik Klingenberg, a 14-year-old Berliner whose character intrigues due to a staggering mix of naivety and honesty. He loses his self-confidence when Tatjana (Aniya Wendel), the schoolmate he’s in love with, doesn’t invite him to her birthday party. His apathetic state doesn’t get better when his teacher rebukes him for a composition in which he tells about his alcoholic mother and her considerable time spent in the spa, a funnier way of addressing the rehabilitation clinic, where she willingly goes when stepping off the limits.
His sad days come to an end after he befriends the new student, Tschik (Batbileg), a delinquent Jewish-gipsy orphan with a tough-adult attitude and whose doubtful reputation is reinforced by the rumors that he’s associated with the Russian mafia. Both decide to embark on a road trip in a stolen blue Lada Niva, listening to Richard Clayderman’s Ballade Pour Adeline and embracing every strange occurrence and encounter with a burning passion proper from their age.
While heading to Wallachia, where Tschick’s grandparents live, they bump into Isa (Mercedes Müller), a starving, smelly girl with candid blue eyes who asks for a ride after helping them stealing gas. She intends to catch the bus that will take her to Prague, where her half-sister lives, but not before flirting with the tremulous Maik. Confessions, promises, and a mutual understanding that feels truly sweet, bolster the trio’s friendship.
“… in all its audacity and insubordination, doesn’t break new ground but didn’t let me down either.”
Akin reserves the best thrills to the final part, when the troublemakers Maik and Tschik are forced to change direction to escape the police, with unfortunate consequences that could have had much worse repercussions.
Based on Wolfgang Herrndorf’s best-selling 2010 novel Why We Took the Car, the film shows how Fatih Akin is an adaptable filmmaker, whose interesting vision gets limited and blurred whenever he doesn’t go deeper than the surface, whether emotionally or narratively.
The feel-good Goodbye Berlin, in all its audacity and insubordination, doesn’t break new ground but didn’t let me down either. Even with ups and downs in its fluidity, and with levels of entertainment that oscillate between the good and the average, I didn’t feel that my time had been wasted in the end.
Goodbye Berlin (2016) – Directed by Fatih Akin. Written by Lars Hubrich, Hark Bohm and Fatih Akin. Starring: Tristan Göbel, Anand Batbileg, Mercedes Müller.
6 out of 10