Screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2017
Based on a young adult novel by Wolfgang Herrndorf, Tschick, this film is a riotously funny and fast-paced coming of age road movie.
Full of punchy, killer one-liners and with a kick-ass soundtrack, Goodbye Berlin follows fourteen-year-old Maik (Tristan Göbel) as he navigates difficulties at home, his love life and having to sit next to terrifying new pupil Tschick (Anand Batbileg) at school. The new kid in class is from Russia and is monosyllabic, has a haircut that wouldn’t look out of place in This is England (2006), and turns up to school drunk. Nobody wants to have to sit next to him – ‘he looks like he’s in the Russian Mafia’. Unfortunately for Maik, the only spare seat is next to him. After a rocky start, Tschick seems determined to befriend Maik, and turns up to his house in a stolen car – an old school Lada no less. With Maik’s mother back in rehab (‘the beauty farm’) and his dad on a long ‘business trip’ with his over-friendly, much younger ‘co-worker’, Maik doesn’t need much convincing to go on an adventure.
What follows is certainly that. With a meandering plot – in a good way – the film jumps from sweet moments of blossoming friendship, to laugh-out-loud scrapes, to surreal encounters with the unusual people the pair meet on the road. Director Faith Atkin brings a snappiness to the film, which has an Edgar Wright style sharpness, with touches of magic realism and a saturated colour palette. The road-movie format also means we get to take in plenty of beautiful views of the German countryside.
One criticism of the film is that the portrayal of women and girls seems too often to fall into tropes. One particularly significant female character is wild and rough, scary even, until she cleans up and cuts her hair – only then does she become a potential love interest. Whilst she is still full of personality, the writing does seem to do her character a disservice; though it is unclear whether this is a fault of the film or its source material.
However, there are great performances across the board. Anand Batbileg is especially impressive as Tschick. He embodies the lovable rogue role with ease and plenty of charm. His ability to move from gruff to tender is a joy to watch. The dialogue between him and Maik captures the awkwardness of teenage boys perfectly.
Overall, Goodbye Berlin is an almost unstoppable juggernaut (or should that be stolen Lada?) of a film which thoroughly deserves to find an audience outside of Germany.