Toni Erdmann (2016)

A masterfully crafted film about a father daughter relationship

6/15/20233 min read

Peter Simonischek as 'Toni Erdmann'
Peter Simonischek as 'Toni Erdmann'

Germany, 162 mins, 2016

Director: Maren Ade

Lead Actors: Sandra Huller, Peter Simonischek, Trystan Putter, Thomas Loibl

Major Awards: FIPRESCI prize, Cannes Film festival, 2016; Nominee Oscar Awards (Best Foreign Film category), 2017; Best European Film Award, 2016; Independant Spirit Award for Best International film, 2017, etc.

When I started watching this film, I didn't pay attention to duration and just jumped into viewing. Somewhere midway I found out the duration of film is 2 hours, 42 mins long. Curiously enough, till then I hadn't found any scene to stretch and get boring or any sequence unnecessary and that certainly is an achievement. It is unconventional for an European film to stretch beyond 120 minutes. Needless to say, "Toni Erdmann," directed by Maren Ade, is a superbly crafted German film that challenges conventional narratives and captivates its audience with a unique blend of comedy and heartfelt emotion. Released in 2016, this critically acclaimed movie became an instant favourite among cinephiles worldwide. The film garnered numerous awards in various prestigious film festivals all across globe.

The film revolves around the cold relationship between Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek), a prankster father, and his ambitious and workaholic daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller). When Winfried realizes that his daughter's corporate lifestyle has made her unhappy, he decides to do something about it in the most unexpected way. Adopting the alter ego of Toni Erdmann, a character with fake teeth and a wig, Winfried embarks on a series of outrageous and often embarrassing pranks, creating moments of both hilarity and discomfort.

What sets "Toni Erdmann" apart is its ability to navigate seamlessly between comedy and pathos. While the film's premise may seem lighthearted, it skillfully delves into deeper themes of loneliness and the pursuit of happiness in a corporate world. The characters are brilliantly portrayed, allowing the audience to sympathize with both Winfried and Ines as they struggle to find common ground amidst their differences.

Peter Simonischek delivers an extraordinary performance as Winfried/Toni, seamlessly transitioning between humorous antics and vulnerable introspection. His comic timing is impeccable, evoking laughter in unexpected moments, but also revealing the underlying sadness and longing of his character. Sandra Hüller, on the other hand, shines as Ines, skillfully portraying the internal conflict of a woman torn between societal expectations and her own desires. Two sequences stand out in my mind which reinforces Sandra's acting prowess- One when she along with her father are in a car visiting the oilfield in Romania, a discussion evokes strong emotional reaction with tears welling up Ines's (Sandra's) eyes. That performance was superb. Another sequence is when she is trying to get out of the dress for her birthday celebration and in process is forced to welcome guests completely naked. The conceptualization of the scene itself is outrageous and unconventional which demonstrates Maren Ade's grip over craft. Sandra's execution with unbelievable ease demonstrates her capability to masterfully deliver the performance.

The film also serves as a commentary on contemporary society, particularly in its exploration of gender roles, corporate culture, and the pressures of success. Through Winfried's absurd pranks, the film presents a subtle critique of a world obsessed with appearances and facades, reminding us of the basic requirement of human connection.

In conclusion, "Toni Erdmann" is an extraordinary film that stands out for its bold and unconventional storytelling. With its blend of humor, heart, and thought-provoking themes, it is a testament to the power of cinema in capturing the complexities of human relationships. Maren Ade's directorial prowess, coupled with remarkable performances from the cast, make "Toni Erdmann" a must-watch for those seeking a truly unique cinematic experience.

About the director, Maren Ade

Maren Ade was born in December, 1976 at Karlsruhe, then West Germany and studied film direction in Munich after doing her courses in Film production and Media management. She has so far made three full length feature films as Scriptwriter and director- The Forest for the Trees (2003), Everyone Else (2009) and Toni Erdmann (2016). All the three features were awarded in prestigious film festivals, in various categories, across the world.

Ade had announced about "Toni Erdmann" in 2012 but finally got completed in 2016. The film debuted In Competition section of the Cannes Film Festival, 2016, the first German film to debut there in 10 years. The film won the top prize at the European Film Awards (Best European Film), thus making Ade the first woman director to win the top prize at those awards.

Ade has produced numerous films under the production house Komplizen which she co-founded with Janine Jackowski, a fellow at HFF (University of Film and Television in Munich).