The serious undertones of Maren Ade’s dry Germanic comedy echo Peter Ustinov’s sentiment: “Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.” This tonal disguise forms part of Ines Conradi’s (Sandra Hu?ller) relationship with her own playful joker of a father Winfried (Peter Simonischek), who, in order to reconnect with his daughter, creates an alter-ego that is inescapably “a funny way of being serious.”
Ade’s film is a study of how we as individuals change, adapt and assimilate ourselves in order to form a type of culture, something which is symbolised here by Winifred’s playful attitude versus the cruder sexual games that Ines plays with Tim (Trystan Pu?tter) – acts that mirror her own consumption by the corporate world. Ines, meanwhile, is a character who looks at – quite literally – stripping back layers to enable her to reconnect with a forgotten prior sense of self.
Maren Ade’s film is already a celebrated festival and critical darling. Whether it will haunt her future films and characters with expectation is a question to be kicked down the proverbial “street.”
Toni Erdmann, Maren Ade, is available on DVD, courtesy of Soda Pictures.
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1. Still from Toni Erdmann.