Maren Ade (Germany, 1976) debuted with The Forest for the Trees (2003),
followed by Everyone Else (2009).
Toni Erdmann (2016)
is about a lonely father who stalks his daughter, a woman who is trying to
make it in the exclusive world of male-dominated business deals but lives
a fundamentally unhappy life. Her father cannot be happy if she is not happy
and tries all sorts of crazy ideas on her, mostly upsetting her, until he
finally causes her to see a less conventional side of life which results in
her staging a cruel joke on her own coworkers. The film is more a melodrama
than a comedy, but with grotesquely surrealistic overtones.
Winfried is an eccentric divorced middle-aged music teacher who lives with his
brother after having been in jail and works in a school helping stage shows
by the children. He is barely tolerated by his ex-wife and daughter Ines.
His only friend is his dog, but it dies. Winfried flies
to Romania, where Ines is posted. He waits for her in the lobby of her office
building and disguises himself as someone one to walk next to her when she
enters in the company of several businessmen.
After having him wait for three hours, she receives him coldly but still
invites him to a reception at the US embassy.
There she tries to lure a powerful businessman into a deal but the businessman
is actually more interested in her father who, wearing a casual attire, tells
the story of how he hired a substitute daughter to play Ines who is mostly
away from home. The businessman treats Ines with chauvinistic complacency,
simply asking her to help his wife go shopping, but finds Winfried so
interesting that later he insists that he and Ines join for a drink at a bar.
There the businessman treats Ines again rudely and seems to make fun of
Winfried. Winfried retaliates with a half-joke that ruins the evening.
His improvised visit quickly turns into a nightmare for her, who is stressed
and anxious about the deal with the powerful businessman, and he realizes it,
so he packs and leaves. She cries a bit after waving him goodbye
but has an important presentation to work on. The presentation doesn't
go well. After the meeting, she spends the evening with two female friends,
Steph and Tatjana. Suddenly a charming man in suit and tie with long hair
approaches them and offers them a drink. He says his name is
Toni Erdmann, but it is just Winfried wearing a wig and false teeth.
Winfried pretends to be a businessman and makes a couple of bad jokes.
He leave in a limo and Ines doesn't have time to confront him.
Ines receives mildly good news that the businessman has accepted one of her
proposals but now wants her to stick around for months to solve all the
problems related to her plan, whereas she was hoping to be transferred to
China. While she is discussing the case with an associate, Toni Erdmann
reappears, this time farting not far from them. This time Ines confronts
him, suspecting that he is trying to ruin her, but he still pretends to be a businessman and leaves in a hurry.
Ines can't even have normal sex. Her Romanian coworker Tim is her more or less secret boyfriend
and she prefers that he masturbates after touching her legs than have real
sex so that she doesn't lose her "bite" and doesn't waste time. She asks him
to ejaculate on a cookie and then she elegantly eats the cookie.
They then meet again at a night-club where she gets bored and leaves while
Tim is dancing with another woman. Winfried/Toni is there and follows her home.
She is mad to find him in her apartment. Winfried/Toni tries to make a joke
with handcuffs but ends up handcuffing them for real; and she has to go to
an appointment. After getting rid of the handcuffs she takes him to the meeting.
They meet Ines' client in the oil business (that she is supposed to
restructure by firing thousands of its workers) and he takes them to inspect
an oil drilling operation. Toni makes one of his jokes that causes one worker to be
fired. He asks Ines to make sure the worker won't be fired but she cynically
replies that the more workers get fired the fewer she will have to fire.
Then Toni needs to pee and walks into the vegetation. A local peasant sees
him and takes him to his house, and then even offers Toni a gift.
Back in the car alone with Ines he guilt-trips her.
Then he asks her to stop at a humble residence. An ordinary family lives there.
They invited him at an Easter party after he
pretended to work for the German embassy and he
mockingly introduces Ines as his secretary "Schmuck" ("foolish").
He then accompanies her at the electronic keyboard while she sings a pop song
like a passionate teenager. Everybody claps delighted but Ines walks out
Disappointed and worried, he sits down with his host and tells her the truth,
that he's not working at the embassy and that Ines is not his secretary but
That evening Ines' company is staging her apartment for a celebration of her
birthday which is truly a business meeting for the whole team.
A staff decorates the apartment and brings in the food while she dresses up.
Upset at her shoes, she takes her dress off just when the first guest rings
the bell. Luckily it's one of her best female friends, but Ines doesn't even
pretend to be upset: she just opens the door naked and then offers her friend
a drink as if everything was normal. Then another guest rings the bell and
again Ines, still naked, opens the door naked in front of her puzzled friend.
This time it's her boss Gerald. Ines keeps her composure and simply tells him
that it's a naked party. Gerald is all dressed up so Ines sends him away.
Then Ines also sends away the friend who is already in the house because
she refuses to undress. Then Tim arrives and he leaves thinking that they
are planning a prank on him. Then Ines' secretary Anca arrives and... she is
indeed naked, having been informed that this is a naked party and fearful of
disobeying Ines. Then Ines is surprised by the next guest: a man disguised
as a spirit-chaser in a costume that completely covers his body. The man
doesn't say anything to the two naked girls. Then Ines' boss Gerald returns,
naked. The spirit-chaser leaves and Ines runs after him, barefoot and
wrapped in just a night-gown.
Realizing that he is her father, she chases him in a park and... they hug.
Then she returns to her guests (we are not shown what is going on at her
awkward party as new guests arrived fully dressed and found the boss and
the secretary naked!) while Winfried looks comically for help to remove
Then the film fast-forwards to the funeral of Ines' grandmother. Very few
people attend. She tells her relatives that she is quitting and joining another
firm, based in Singapore. After the funeral father and daughter can exchange
a few words: he reminds her of events of her childhood.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx) |
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