A 60-something, semi-retired German man who teaches a bit of piano and is fond of crappy practical jokes decides his ambitious 30-something daughter has been de-humanised by her job as a corporate consultant to the oil industry.
When his faithful old dog dies and his sole pupil gives up piano class, he is apparently so bored that he decides this is a good opportunity to ‘humanise’ his daughter by following her, uninvited and unannounced, back to Bucharest where her company is trying to sew up deals with the locals, and invading her business and social life in the guise of an ugly creep with monstrous yellow buck teeth and a long unkempt black wig. He torments and embarrasses her in front of her colleagues, clients and friends, which appears to drive her so crazy that she ends up answering the door to invited guests at her own birthday party stark naked and insisting that they strip off or leave. There was an earlier, somewhat gross scene of loveless sex between her and a co-worker, so that I was dreading the father’s inevitable arrival at the birthday party, thinking: surely they won’t inflict father/daughter nudity on us – that would be too excruciating!
But no… Instead he unaccountably turns up in an outrageous hairy costume covering his entire face and body, like a giant cross between a yeti and a tree, saying nothing at all to anybody. She puts clothes back on and follows him outside when he leaves. He falls over in a park but later gets up again and nothing much else happens except that she goes back to Germany to join him at the funeral of an old woman who I think was his mother and her grandmother.
I have no idea what it was all about or what the moral of the story is supposed to be. Toni Erdmann was reportedly lauded by critics at Cannes, which is puzzling, although it didn’t win any prizes, which isn’t. It’s supposedly a comedy, but I can’t imagine even a German audience would consider that a ridiculous disguise, one fart joke and one wank joke spread over nearly three hours add up to a funny story.
One star from me. And that’s for the glimpses into what life looks like nowadays in post-Ceausescu Romania. Which is pretty bleak.
This review was first published on Facebook in February 2017