Review: Toni Erdmann – a layered dark comedy

This award-winning German comedy has conquered this year’s film season; having swept the European Film Awards for Best Film, Director, Screenwriter and the Best Actor awards for both of its two leads. Notably, director Maren Ade is the first woman in the Award’s history to win Best Director. And for good reason.

This dark comedy is a layered exploration of the relationship between a wise cracking father and his high strung daughter. We are introduced to Winfried, a retired music-teacher and the father, as he is playing a prank on a delivery man, joking that a package contains mail bombs and ‘erotic products’. The joke falls flat on his victim and this comedy of awkwardness continues. Shortly after, we are introduced to his grown daughter Ines, just returning from Shanghai as a consultant for an oil company.

‘The sheer ridiculousness/magnificence of Toni exposes the cracks in his daughter’s ‘fashionable’ life’

The film follows the strained, complex and ultimately moving relationship between these two. In a bid to understand his daughter, Winfried births Toni Erdmann. Toni is Winfried’s alter ego who allows him to enter his daughter’s life and the corporate world she is a part of. The sheer ridiculousness/magnificence of Toni exposes the cracks in his daughter’s ‘fashionable’ life, as the film provides an interesting commentary of the hypocrisy and sexism of corporate success. Ia especially enjoyed Winfried use of a set of fake teeth. They appear frequently and for no reason. Their constant presence on screen means that, by the end of the 162 minutes, they are completely acceptable and admirable. At the start of the film, Winfried’s dog dies. Arguably, the whole film could be seen as how one man deals with the pain of canine death, adopting an alter ego as a coping mechanism for his unending grief.

Ultimately, the film is a brilliant one, and if you can get past the subtitles I would definitely give it a watch.

Olivia Raine

(Image courtesy of Vox)

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