Thursday, June 23, 2016
Aktuálné.cz (J. Gregor) review*
ČervenýKoberec.cz (E. Césarová) review*
iDnes (M. Spačilová) review*
Kino-Zeit.de (L. Berwenczik) review*
Spielfilm.de (B. Piringer) review*
Schmitke  [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]* [CEu] (directed and cowritten by Štěpán Altrichter [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]* [CEu], along with Tomáš Končinský [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]* [CEu] and Jan Fusek [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]* [CEu]) is A TRULY FUN Bob Newhart-y Seinfeld / "Northern Exposure" like / Twilight Zone-ish small, largely crowd-sourced, volunteer / film school student staffed CZECH / GERMAN / SLOVAKIAN co-production that played recently at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago as part of the 2016 Czech That Film Tour organized annually by the Czech Ministry of Culture and the Czech Diplomatic Mission to the United States.
The film is (largely) about Julius Schmitke (played wonderfully by Peter Kurth [IMDb] [FZ.de]* [CSFD]* [FDB]* [CEu]) a 50-something year-old, good, solid, honest German engineer, from ... some mid-sized city in Germany. He's devoted his life to making good, solid wind-turbines for a good, solid German "Green" wind-mill / engineering firm. Sure, he's a little bit staid, a little bit boring. He doesn't seem to be married (anymore).
Schmitke's 20-something year old daughter Anne (played again WONDERFULLY by Lana Cooper [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]* [FZ.de]* [CEu]) comes crashing to his quite minimalist apartment early in the film, bubbling with all kinds of enthusiasm that a 20-something year old would have, after having spent (apparently) the last 6 months / year "somewhere" in Nepal ... or something... ;-). He's nice, kinda "rolls his eyes" (_internally_ because he _doesn't_ want to offend her ;-) still kinda does anyway ;-) and just does, kinda, love this daughter who ... it's pretty clear that he _doesn't_ understand any more, honestly "doesn't have a clue." But she's his daughter. She's (still?) enthusiastic ... so why not just be happy for her? EVEN IF HE DOESN'T HAVE A CLUE OF WHAT SHE'S TALKING ABOUT ;-) ;-) I THINK A LOT OF PARENTS "COULD RELATE" ;-)
Well, one random day, a few days after his daughter came back from Nepal or somewhere, spotlessly clean red hard hat on, at work, with a group of fellow engineers, all dutifully with their spotlessly clean red hard hats on (not a single scrape or gash on any of said hard hats ;-), dutifully running some sort of an acoustic test of one of their windmill prototypes in a wind-tunnel, he's called aside by the manager and told ... that he's replacing him by bright-spritely (10-15-20 years younger than him) engineer (also with a red hard hat on ;-). "Why?" "Because I need you in the field" "But I stopped doing that 10 years ago." "I know but that's where the company needs you now." Sigh ... "Can I at least keep my assistant?" "Sure ..."
And so it was, a day or two later, he and his bright-eyed goofy 20-something engineering assistant Thomas (played again WONDERFULLY by Johann Jürgens [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]* [CEu]) "just like his daughter" only, honestly, DUMBER ;-) -- Schmitke spends most of his time (again largely internally) "shaking his head" as Thomas keeps talking, incessantly (but _excitedly_). BUT HE APPARENTLY LIKES HIM AROUND BECAUSE ... HE _IS_ FUN -- head off on their first "field job" (in years) ... out to some windmill farm out on THE CZECH SIDE of the Czech - German border in the Ore (Erzgebirge / Krušné Hory) Mountains.
When they arrive in the odd, would-be "sleepy" mountain / border town, they quickly see (or HEAR) the problem. Meeting with the late 30-something / early 40-something year old Czech mayor Potužák (played again SPOT-ON with the Czech brand of "no-nonsense" / "sleaves rolled up" efficiency by Jakub Žáček [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]* [CEu]), who seems to run the town from his seat at the local tavern U Bobrů (at the Beavers ;-), he's welcomed by said exasperated mayor and told (in effect): "Thank God you're (finally) here, now just knock the F-ing thing down."
What thing? Well, outside of town there's, of course, a (small) "wind farm" and in the midst of the 3-4 maybe 5 GIANT (German built) WINDMILLS stands THE OLDEST ONE, a GIANT DILAPIDATED MONSTROSITY which (remember those "acoustic tests" that "spotless red helmeted" Schmitke and his team were conducting "in the spotless wind-tunnel lab" the other day) was HOWLING in a TRULY MONSTROUSLY / ARGUABLY _UNHOLY_ WAY, its HOWLS ECHOING UP-AND-DOWN AND ALL-AROUND THE MOUNTAINS / COUNTRY-SIDE ;-) ;-).
Again, the Mayor would want his (should be) "sleepy little town" to FINALLY "just get some sleep";-)
So soon there's 50+year old Schmitke (in a now more practical and certainly "more worn" hard hat) alongside his goofy 20-something year old assistant who actually came there with a goofy raccoon cap ("'cause they were going 'into the wilds' there on the Czech-German border" ;-), now _also_ in a hard-hat with some dents in it (at least Schmitke _didn't_ introduce _his daughter_ to this goofy if fun loving "moron" ... ;-) and ... with the two staring at this THOROUGHLY DILAPIDATED _HOWLNG_ MONSTER ... you can just _imagine_ SCHMITKE THINKING (when not distracted by his goofy assistant): "WHAT THE F... did YOU (one has to say it ... CZECH ;-) IDIOTS DO WITH _MY WONDERFUL WINDMILL_ ;-) ;-) ... NEVER, EVER IN MY LIFE, DID I SEE ..." ;-)
And then quickly remember back to the (Czech) Mayor with his own very practical complaint: "We and certainly_I_ (!!) NEVER asked for this MONSTER to be put in OUR / MY BACK YARD. So just _knock_ the Damned / UNHOLY thing down" ;-)
So ... much ensues ... ;-)
Among that which ensues is simply dealing with the locals. And these _aren't_ simply "dumb" "Benny Hill" types. FAR FROM IT, young, middle aged or old, COLORFUL as they are (often literally ... the punkish bar maid Julie (played again WONDERFULLY with "eye rolling" fashion by Johana Schmidtmajerová [IMDb] [FDB]* [CEu]) has half her head shaved and the other half dyed purple ;-), ALL HAVE THEIR OWN LIVES and MOST actually DON'T EVEN CARE that the HOWLING MONSTER OF A WINDMILL AT THE EDGE OF TOWN is making their lives _unbearable_ ... MOST ('cept of course the Mayor, who might have made a campaign promise to get rid of the damned thing) have COME TO "BE AT PEACE" WITH IT. Eyes rolling, head shaking that's "simply the way things are ... in these parts ..."
It's just a _brilliant_ piece of screen-writing and then execution -- with that HOWLING windmill (literally) "standing-in" (!) as a "twenty-first century _werewolf_" ;-)
A "local expert" a "geologist" named Kryšpín (played again wonderfully in generally cynical/sneering yet sometimes when _he_ wanted to (for effect) in "bug-eyed" scary fashion by Petr Vršek [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]* [CEu]) progressively "explains to" (more like freaks-out) Schmitke the various levels of "oddity" of "these parts" in which Schmitke found himself in (nominally sent _to repair "his windmill"):
For one, the mountains aren't called "The Ore Mountains" for nothing. Laden with all kinds of metals (and even uranium), magnets, compasses, much _electronic gear_ doesn't work well there.
Then there's the wind and the incessant fog (though _not mentioned in the film_ in the 1970s-80s that FOG was still heavily ACID LADEN from coal fired plants on both sides of the border). At minimum, that moisture would mess with the metal gear then in that blasted windmill.
Then this was FAMOUSLY the part of the Czech Republic THAT HAD been SUDETEN (hence prior to World War II, inhabited overwhelmingly BY GERMANS -- who were expelled by the war).
So small town with said tavern and angry/"sleaves rolled-up" trying-to-be-efficient mayor notwithstanding, this region was LARGELY ABANDONED with "forests" growing all over the place _including_ over all kinds of formerly Sudeten German towns / hamlets: Schmitke's van's GPS _keeps taking him_ to a town that DOES NOT APPEAR TO EXIST ANYMORE -- it doesn't, but that doesn't mean that a town wasn't there before.
Finally there were all sorts of former mines, all around in the forests, some there since the Middle Ages, others built (and abandoned) as all sorts of "secret facilities" form all sorts of eras including the Nazi Era. Kryšpín warns Schmitke: "People disappear here."
So this was one STRANGE place ... with a HOWLING MONSTROSITY OF A WINDMILL SPINNING AROUND ... ABOVE IT ALL ... far far far "from the lab." ;-)
ADDENDUM: Yea! The film is available (though apparently in European [PAL] format) with Czech, German and English subtitles in both the US [Amzn] and in Europe [Amzn-UK] [Amzn.de] [Amzn.es] at a reasonable price ;-)
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