Movie Review: Bungalow
Film Reviews for German
2002 GERMANY 84 MIN COLOR 35 MM
DIRECTOR: Ulrich Köhler
GENRE: Contempoarary Drama
AWARDS: Some film festival awards, including the Hessischer Filmpreis 2002 and Schwerin 2002
In German with English subtitles
U.S. RELEASE: N/A
RATING: (Germany) Age 12 and up; no U.S. rating (would be R)
Paul goes AWOL... and nowhere
BUNGALOW starts out with a long, drawn-out scene of German army trucks carrying some very bored and drowsy Bundeswehr soldiers across a green German landscape. Then the trucks turn off the highway into one of those typical German Raststätten with an Esso gas station and a Burger King. At first, it's almost comical because you have the impression that they're stopping for gas. And it stays comical as they drive past the pumps and park near a Burger King. The soldiers jump down from the trucks and file into the BK for lunch. (I guess they don't have rations in the Bundeswehr.) One soldier, a young-looking kid, emerges and sits down with his meal next to a stranger, not saying a word. The stranger hands him a section of his newspaper to read, as if a soldier sits down next to him every day. Soon the other Soldaten are climbing back aboard the trucks, but the kid seems in no hurry to join them and the trucks drive off without him. (No head count?) He just sits there, saying nothing, not even bothering to eat his Whopper. And so ends the best part of this film.
Paul, Lene, and Max view the smoke
of an explosion in town.
I suppose it's possible to like a film in which the main character is a sullen, alienated loser, but not this film. The AWOL soldier turns out to be 19-year-old Paul (Lennie Burmeister), a spoiled, irresponsible rich kid. It's summer and Paul really doesn't want to do anything as boring as spend time in the army when he could be doing... nothing! We have to spend the rest of this movie watching Paul do almost nothing but irritate people. From the rest stop he heads off to who-knows-where, somewhere in Germany. When he breaks into a house, at first it's not clear whose house it is, but soon we realize that this is his own family's well-appointed summer home, aka the bungalow, complete with pool.
Paul trades his uniform for civvies and then calls a couple of friends. Nope, they're not available right now. Now what? Sometime around this part of the movie comes my least favorite scene. Bored Paul lies down on his bed and proceeds to half-heartedly play with himself. (He can't even show enthusiasm for that!) Later he does at least have the decency to tape up the broken glass in the door he broke, one of the few times he seems to have any sense of responsibility. He certainly doesn't show any to Kerstin (Nicole Gläser), the girlfriend he recently dumped, who shows up at the bungalow on her moped to tell him off, but keeps coming back for more abuse from her ex-boyfriend, who goes skateboarding whenever he wants to get away from it all. In the end, we don't care any more about her than Paul does.
But at last we are rescued from having to watch Paul's boredom when his bother Max (Devid Striesow) shows up with his Danish, English-speaking girlfriend Lene (Trine Dyrholm). Max doesn't appreciate Paul's irresponsible behavior in general, but when he finds out that his younger brother is AWOL, he's really furious and talks him into going back before it's too late. But it's no big surprise when Paul manages to miss his train after Max drops him off at the station. Paul returns to the bungalow and being the nice guy he is, he tries to steal his brother's girl, or at least to bed her. She is inexplicably kind to Paul, despite his blunt, unromantic advances, but she puts him off... for a while.
I would have liked this film (and Lene) a bit more if Lene had not finally given in and slept with Paul. Poor Max seems to be the only person in the film who has any strength of character. When some German MPs (Feldjäger) begin to look for Paul at the bungalow, you keep wishing they'd catch him and end this film, but they turn out to be as inept as their wayward prey.
Despite recurring hope that this movie was finally going to head somewhere, its initial ennui just drifted into total apathy. A few promising minor subplots also disappointed with dead ends (the local swimming pool blows up, but we never find out why or what it has to do with this film). Lennie Burmeister, in real life a champion pro skateboarder, plays his sullen lead character a bit too sullenly in his debut film and the mundane camerawork of Patrick Orth doesn't even make his skateboard sequences look interesting. I'm sure that writer/director Köhler was trying to send a political and social message. He should have listened to studio head Samuel Goldwyn: If you want to send a message, call Western Union.
Written and Directed by Ulrich Köhler
Cast: Lennie Burmeister (Paul), Trine Dyrholm (Lene), Devid Striesow (Max), Nicole Gläser (Kerstin), Jörg Malchow (Stefan), Maria Hagewald (Dunja).
DVD: Bungalow is available on German (PAL, Region 2) DVD from the German-Hollywood DVD Store.
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