Film: Bye Bye Germany / Es war einmal in Deutschland… (2017)

May 26, 2018 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer: n/a

Extras: n/a


Region: n/a

Released: n/a

Genre: Comedy / Drama

Synopsis: After surviving the horrors of Nazi concentration camps, a group of Jews develop a plan to fund their immigration to the U.S. and start up their respective businesses.

Special Features: n/a




Sam Garbarski’s tale of postwar concentration camp survivors using their wits to raise enough money to sail for America with business startup money is an unusual premise for a comedy-drama, and for most of the film the peculiar tone manages to balance dry humour with a few pitch black zingers, and camp recollections emphasizing emotional cruelty over visual horror.

David Bermann (Run Lola Run‘s Moritz Bleibtreu) is the ringleader who persuades friends & associates to follow his guidance, and not exactly scam but exploit the naivete of German gentiles into buying slightly overpriced linens – to own a smattering of the fine stuff that disappeared when the war started to go sour for the Nazis.

Parallel to Bermann’s educating colleagues on the fine art of persuasion and slight deception is an ongoing examination by the U.S. Army to question every nuance of his application before considering granting a permit to leave the country. All of his associates are in the right except Bermann, and his puzzlement and the army’s roundabout method of querying and scrutinizing leads to frustration and some morbid fun: if the Americans are not willing to be forthcoming with what they have on him, then why shouldn’t he embellish and blur the line between fact and fiction?

Tragedy is worked into the finale when a survivor may or may not have mistakenly identified a former camp leader, and it’s the weakest element in the plotting, feeling manipulative and contrived, whereas a ‘rival hustler’ with straight criminal maneuvering is set up to be a recurring foil… but disappears until the finale, perhaps a casualty from pruning the script to its core plot points.

What augers the weak spots are the bits where Bermann’s trained teams of ‘salesmen’ use a common name and weasel themselves into the environs of couples, groups, and widows – ostensibly exploiting their weak status to sell overpriced (but still nice) textiles. The dialogue is sharp and dark; everyone has a specific skill, including a social oddball who only excels at one thing: making Germans feel guilty. Even Bermann’s recollections take on an absurd, Chaplinesque tenor when he tests the patience of his handler, German-born, American-based Special Agent Sara Simon (Pandorum‘s Antje Traue), who joined the army to root out clandestine Nazis, and is now learning the fine art of dissecting truth from fantasy.

The pacing is brisk, the cast uniformly strong in playing their twitchy characters, but the real star is the gorgeous production design that recreates a generally functional postwar world. Virginie Saint-Martin’s cinematography is warm with amber hues, and Renaud Garcia-Fons’ score eases in some light jazz material to lighten the film and enhance Bermann’s most preposterous recollection.

It’s an unusual blend of comedy and tragedy, but delivered in a fairly tight package.



© 2018 Mark R. Hasan





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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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