Summarising Toni Erdmann in a few lines would be like trying to solve the Enigma Code in under thirty minutes. What is this film truly about? Who is it really about? Well, I’d say that’s subjective. It depends on who you are. A father, whose children have grown up? Or maybe you’re a son or daughter who has moved away from home and never has the time to call anymore. Either way, this film will resonate with whoever is watching.
A German comedy set in Bucharest, this atypical narrative paints a frank picture of a father and a daughter who are both avoiding their true emotions.
Piece by piece he attempts to break down the barrier Ines has built up
Winfried has an alter ego, the bizarre Toni Erdmann who he uses to camouflage his remorse: his absurd pranks gradually rebuild his awkward, fragmented relationship with zealous and austere Ines. Piece by piece he attempts to break down the barrier Ines has built up while working in the corporate world of oil, using his eccentricity to unearth the daughter he feels he has lost.
both following ultimately meaningless paths that bring them only superficial happiness
The strength of both of their characters permeates the plot, as they gradually embrace their weaknesses. They accept that they feel alone, both following ultimately meaningless paths that bring them only superficial happiness.
Think spontaneously naked networking events, unusual Bulgarian traditional costumes that look like a giant yeti-come-tree-trunk, and impulsive father-daughter duets
Various shocking scenes contrast the dead-pan moments of pensive anticipation, as either Winfried or Ines is seen quite possibly questioning every aspect of their life. Think spontaneously naked networking events, unusual Bulgarian traditional costumes that look like a giant yeti-come-tree-trunk, and impulsive father-daughter duets. Contrast these eclectic scenes with stony shots of father and daughter staring into the distance, which last just long enough to make you feel uncomfortable too.
Ines accidentally ends up hosting an all-naked brunch party
Despite their somewhat detached relationship, it is clear that Ines is subtly pining for her father’s presence, as she appears over-exhausted, constantly falling asleep.
The contrast of her father’s humour with the seriousness of the business world ridicules its inherent nature. This is fully developed in the nude scene in which Ines accidentally ends up hosting an all-naked brunch party. As all of her colleagues de-robe, Ines takes her job less and less seriously.
Ines’s partial adoption of Winfried’s alter ego Toni in the final scene of the film ties together the final strings. It provides a sense of closure I hoped for, after worrying that director Maren Ade would create some sort of sorrowful twist to conclude. Nevertheless, Ines’s inability to fully adopt Winfried’s persona reflects both of their natural differences of character, and variances in their stages in life: Ines is not yet ready to fully let go of her seriousness, whereas Winfried decides to embrace his peculiar personality.
This film is sure to get you wondering where meaning in life is really found, in a light-hearted but contemplative manner. You are likely leave the cinema feeling as confused as Ines and Winfried/Toni’s relationship is portrayed. Toni Erdmann is a must see.
This article was originally posted on The Undergraduate Review.