Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Honourable Mentions: Getting my Brother Laid

dvdOne of the more unusual titles that I am going to feature on this blog, I am sure, this 2001 German movie, directed by Sven Taddicken, could best be described as a gently bitter-sweet black comedy (at least until hindesight kicks in) and has the German title ‘Mein Bruder, der Vampir’.

It begins with a voice of a girl, we later realise that it is Nic (Marie-Luise Schramm), she is talking of predestination and the fact that she cannot concentrate or sleep – she is going to have it.

We suddenly see a man’s face, Josch (Roman Knizka), looking down through glass, we see the curve of his fingers as they press against the transparent surface. When he smiles we see fangs. Behind him, also looking in, is Nic and she, we see, wears braces. When we see what they look at we realise it is a couple, later revealed as Mike (Hinnerk Schönemann) and Nadine (Julia Jentsch), having sex. Nic explains to Josch her theorems regarding attraction and the build, during sex, towards orgasm.

up on the roofAs Nadine reaches orgasm she opens her eyes, sees the skylight and screams. Josch and Nic fall back onto the tiled roof. Nadine tells Mike something was up there and, eventually, he takes a look. As he emerges Nic puts her finger to her lips and, following her instruction, Mike tells Nadine it was nothing, a cat on the roof. It is an intriguing opening. Given the German title we wonder at the control these creatures have over mortal man. In the morning, as they have breakfast, we realise that Nic, Josch and Mike are siblings and all three are very human.

Josch has a bad reaction at breakfastAt Mike’s insistence Josch takes his false fangs out at the breakfast table. Nadine comes downstairs and is introduced to them; Josch makes it clear that his full name is Johannes, declared incompetent 12/12/1974. He shows her a card indicating that (in three days) he is thirty and inviting her to the birthday party of the Prince of Darkness (his alter ego as it were). When she asks what he would like as a present he blurts out ‘cockscrew’. This leads to an argument – with Josch scurrying through a hatch to the sibling’s mother (Barbara Stoll) – and Mike telling Nadine that it is a family matter.

Marie-Luise Schramm as NicJosch is clearly mentally disabled. While Mike works as a security guard (Nadine is the kennel girl who looks after the guard dogs and is angry with him for snapping at her), Josch attends a centre for the disabled and spends his day filling tool boxes with component parts – something that clearly brings him pleasure as he can (literally) act like a robot. Nic, meanwhile, is giving a lecture at school. She tells her classmates about genetics and selected breeding – that non-natural child production is clearly the way forward (there is more than a little bit of Brave New World to her project). The class are falling asleep until she adds in a picture of Mike and Nadine having sex – she is sent to the school psychologist.

musical song and dance routineAs she leaves the school, smoking a cigarette, she is followed by a classmate who is clearly interested in her. Her actual voiceover indicates that she, herself, is looking for that first love – she wishes to experience the natural side of reproduction (or at least the methodology of getting there). Her classmate is not the one, however, and she has been ignoring him when he suddenly vanishes from the pavement. She looks over a wall and he has been captured by the local bullies and suspended upside down in a playground. The leader, Manu (Alexander scheer), talks and then – putting on a cabaret cassette – we enter a bizarre moment of musical song and dance routine that appears from nowhere. At the end we are left in no doubt that Nic has selected Manu as her first.

Barbara Stoll as the motherThat night Nic speaks to her mother about her first time. Her mother’s first love was a pilot when she was a stewardess. He was Josch’s father (we later hear he died in a crash) and her pregnancy grounded her. It is clear that she lives in the past – for income she now sews airline badges to emergency life jackets. Later we see she has kept her uniform for best wear and she states that she is hollow inside with barely anything even for her children. She doesn’t want Nic to ruin her life, however, and makes her promise to come to her if she needs the pill.

Nadine and Mike have made up and he offers to show her his trains. He leaves her on the landing as he sets things up in the attic and she wanders along to Josch’s room – incidentally he has a picture of a vampire on the door and the Munsters on his wall. She tells him she knows it was him at the skylight and tells him not to do it again but then calls herself the princess of the night and is clearly, lightly, flirting with him. Mike collects her and shows her his trains – which are actually trains – but they are soon getting it on.

the Prince of DarknessJosch, with fangs in and wearing a cape, climbs the roof alone. Mike had boarded the window and so he takes the boards away with one of his tool sets and watches them again. Afterwards, as Mike leaves the room, Josch stands – declaring he will have the princess of the night – and falls through the skylight onto Nadine. Mike later blames Nadine for leading Josch on.

I don’t want to go any further into a film that, as you watch it, is a comedy filled with strange characters that, in itself, is not laugh out loud funny (mostly) but does fix a smile to the viewers face all the way through. As you watch, however, something nags at the back of your mind and it is at the end you realise it is because you have just voyeuristically spent the length of the film with one of the world's most dysfunctional families. In their own way each character, except Josch who is pure and in his own world, is unpleasant and yet you bond with them.

Roman Knizka as JoschThis is in no small way down to the actors. Special mention to both Marie-Luise Schramm, who carries the narrative of the film forward, and to Roman Knizka, who is nothing short of stunning in his portrayal of Josch. It would have been so very easy to make the portrayal of Josch a parody but, instead, he created a warm individual who literally lit up the screen. But, truth be told, there is not a bad performance in the film. All the actors make their characters fit in a natural way, odd shaped puzzle pieces in a twisted view of the world.

Hinnerk Schönemann as MikeThe film takes us to Josch’s birthday and great play is made of thirty being the age when he becomes a man. Josch becomes obsessed with Nadine and Mike tries to distract him. Meanwhile Nic is obsessed with experiencing first love with Manu. At one point the Flower Duet, by Delibes, is used and this almost takes ownership of the piece from the Hunger as it flicks between the activities of the siblings and we see Mike trying to teach Josch masturbation with porn magazines to distract his lust from Nadine.

Of course, there is no lore as such. However Josch does wear his fangs and pretend to be a vampire. It makes him feel secure in a world he does not understand. This is to the point of putting his fangs back in, if upset. I should mention that when he is upset we hear a sound effect as Josch clutches his head that, at first, simply feels like frustration but, eventually, it becomes clear it is an airplane’s engine – the sound associated with his father’s death. Interestingly the character displays some obsessive compulsive traits that are reminiscent of those displayed by a traditional vampire.

With an ending shocking in its matter of fact tonality and yet fitting within the twisted world that Taddicken draws around us, Getting my Brother Laid might not be a traditional vampire movie – after all Josch simply lives as the Prince of Darkness in an internal fantasy construct – but is highly recommended. The imdb page is here.


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Taliesin_ttlg said...

Conrad left the following message:

"I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


the original message was removed due to a link that seemed... dubious and spam like. If this is not the case I apologise and thank you for your kind words.

J.R. said...

Thanks for pointing this one out . . . looks interesting. I just ordered the movie on a Region 0 disc, which hopefully will play on my DVD player (or, failing that, on my computer).

Taliesin_ttlg said...

JR, hope you enjoy it - let me know.

Region 0 should work on any DVD player... however, if you download the excellent media player VLC - which is free, you'll find that it actually avoids all region checks... very useful.

J.R. said...

I did enjoy watching this . . . it's definitely quirky, in a good way, and yet there are moments of real pathos that you feel for these siblings.

There is also a five-minute "alternative ending" (which really should be called an additional ending) that takes place in a hospital and deals with the aftermath of the night before . . . among other things, Josh asks "will you be my Princess of the Night forever?" and gets a negative response. I felt that there were elements of this ending that brought the movie to a more satisfactory conclusion, although it would probably have been edited somewhat if left attached to the main film.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

JR, I must admit I didn't notice the alternate (extended) ending and will have to look at that once I get the disc back from the friend who borrowed it!

Glad you enjoyed it and I think quirky is a good description.