On Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann.
It’s not often that I’m as taken by a contemporary picture as much as I was with Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann. The German film was a staple of year-end polls, with near-unanimous praise ringing out from every quarter, and it’s opened in the UK this week.
A story of familial bond, Ade’s film charts the relationship between a young corporate consultant and her ageing father, prankster par excellence. Across a leisurely-paced 165 minute run-time we see the two come to terms with their often traumatic relationship with one another.
To reveal any specifics regarding the comic set-pieces of Toni Erdmann would be to do so at the detriment of the viewing experience of any potential future audience member (I would advise to go in as blind as possible; the trailers for the film fail to capture the spirit of the picture anyway), so instead I’ll praise the manner in which the film is put together. On a surface level the comedy is hugely accessible, and immediately affecting, but it has depth too. Ade cuts through the contemporary climate of corporate culture in a manner not a million miles away from the way in which Jacques Tati took aim at the changing landscape of Europe in the middle of the twentieth century. Here, the director turns the language of the capitalist utopias being carved in to Eastern Europe in to something bordering on the melodic, with the rhythm of her comedic masterpiece drawing from this audible tapestry. Broad, surreal comedy happenstances are the order of the day, while any sense of the kind of cynicism so often found in American comedies of this ilk is scant to be found. It’s a joyous piece of work.
Unpredictable and hugely affecting, in Toni Erdmann Maren Ade has created one of the modern cinema’s true greats, and a masterpiece of comedy that is the ideal tonic for these often-trying times.