Goodbye Berlin begins on an intense note. Blurry footage of a fatal road accident. Cut to police and the fire squad in action. A teenager with a blood-stained face screams a name at the camera. Then everything freezes, and fades into darkness.
Goodbye Berlin (2016) is a journey full of adventure and adrenalin. Similar to Akin’s Im Juli, except with younger protagonists. Akin uses the style and flavours of popular cinema to portray the angst, insecurities, and innate curiosity of adolescence with empathy. A stolen car (a Lada) and a delightful Richard Clayderman tape set the tone, and a sense of freedom gleams throughout the film.
It’s great fun.
The film traces the life of Maik (Tristan Göbel), a shy and timid boy who lives with his affectionate mother and a busy realtor father in a posh house in suburban Germany. In addition to dealing with his mom’s alcoholism, Maik is also a meek witness to his father’s illicit relationship with a young colleague. In his head, Maik sees himself as a rebel shooting down his father and the girlfriend. In reality however his life is dull and uneventful. Worse, his crush is a girl every boy in class is smitten with. And she ignores his existence. Enter Tschick (Anand Batbileg), a Russian boy with a devil-may-care attitude.
From this point onward, the film takes us on a whirlwind trip full of pleasant surprises, adventures, and accidents.
Goodbye Berlin looks like a typical coming-of-age movie, but it is unique in popular cinema. It doesn’t ask its protagonists to man up and face life. Their experiences and encounters aren’t exactly life-changing. In fact, Maik and Tschick embark on the trip in the stolen Lada simply because they have nothing better to do at that point in time. They don’t speak about liberation or even their shared need for a friend. And the film treats them endearingly, like a mother letting go of her children on a playground under her watchful eyes.
Often, the film cuts into fantasy and the surreal with a subtle touch. The duo run into Esa at a dump yard. An ethereally beautiful girl with dishevelled hair and smelly rags, she appears to be a fragment of Maik’s boyish fantasy. The beautiful landscapes of Germany make this a pretty film. Esa makes it prettier.
Initially, the film smartly contrasts Maik and Tschick. But as their bond grows, the lines separating them are slowly erased.
Akin’s impressive sense of music is well-known. Edge Of Heaven began with the soulful composition “Ben Seni Sevdigmi” by late folk musician Kazim Koyuncu. In Im Juli, an enchanting, well-choreographed piece of music flows into the backdrop of a starry night. The soul of Solino is captured in this piece. In Goodbye Berlin, Akin plays for us a beautiful Richard Clayderman tune to sum up the film’s essence. It effortlessly fit into both zones – adolescent and adult – and mellows down the wildness of the uncharted trip.
Goodbye Berlin makes one think what a fabulous road-trip partner Fatih Akin could make! He will play the perfect songs to keep the tempo up, steer the wheel into diversions that can change fate in all the right ways, and reassuringly let us know – that even when the car gets caught in the worst storm, it’s not going to be the end of the world.
Goodbye Berlin, Fatih Akin’s 2015 German language film, was screened at 21st International Film Festival Of Kerala.
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