In the new film by Jan Ole Gerster, “A Coffee In Berlin”, originally titled, “Oh Boy”, which won six 2013 German Film Academy Awards, the audience is immediately engaged by it’s checked out protagonist, Niko, in a series of comical and cringe worthy scenes that threaten to change his status to engaged, or risk further spirally downward. The film is less a statement about the future of Generation Y, but more of a slice of life look at a character who we learn has dropped out of college, seems disengaged with his girlfriend, and is more interested in wandering the streets of Berlin as he stares off into space. Though Niko’s attempts to disengage, are met with those who are engaged, including an old schoolmate, Julia, who we learn was nicknamed, ‘Roly Poly Julia’, because kids like Niko teased her for being fat. When Niko sees a beautiful girl staring at him in a restaurant, he fails to recognize that it’s Julia, who has lost all of the weight, but hasn’t forgotten the ridicule she endured by Niko.
After several ill fated attempts to grab a cup of coffee, he realizes, in one instance, that he doesn’t have enough Euros to pay for the overpriced
Columbian coffee that the perky barista is trying to sell him. At a nearby ATM machine, Niko drops a few of the coins into a sleeping homeless man’s cup, before trying to get money from the machine. When the ATM eats his card and emits nothing, Niko attempts to take back his coins from the homeless man, in a desperate, yet hilarious scene that will only make viewers cringe. Niko calls his Dad to try and solve the problem with the ATM card, and is then invited by his father to the golf course, where he must be further humiliated, before discussing his bank account, that Dad controls.
Gerster’s script, cast and directing is less of a look at a downward spiraling character’s fate, but rather puts the viewer behind the eyes of Niko, perhaps showing that we all check out sometimes, having life’s everyday experiences seem odd, laughable, annoying and awkward. Adding a whimsical, yet moody Jazz soundtrack against the black and white film, further draws the audience into the often absurd scenes that play more like vignettes, than a linear storyline. Yet it’s these separate alluring scenes that engage the viewer to want to follow Niko’s path, and ultimate fate.
“A Coffee In Berlin” is a seductive, yet aimless journey of it’s main character, Niko, that will lure audiences along the Berlin streets awaiting each new experience, our protagonist faces with a new blank canvas. A constant running train that moves at feverish speed throughout the city, is always present throughout “A Coffee In Berlin”, as a subtle reminder of the choices we constantly have to make of getting on or off the train of life. Each scene leads up to a final pinnacle moment with an old man, played by German actor, Michael Gwisdek, who’s haunted by Berlin’s war past. The moody and mesmerizing scene contrasts two characters: one who knew Berlin during Nazi Germany, in a divided city, while the other lives in a post Berlin Wall era, and a city that’s evolving and growing faster by the year. The juxtaposition of the two characters is not only a commentary on Berlin today, but impacts Niko to consider a new direction.
“A Coffee In Berlin” opens this Friday, June 13 at Sunshine Cinema in New York. The film will also open in San Francisco (Landmark Theater), Berkeley (Shattuck), San Jose (Camera 12), Philadelphia (Ritz at the Bourse) and Chicago (Gene Siskel FC) on June 20th, with further days, including Los Angeles on June 27th. Check opening dates here: www.musicboxfilms.com/a-coffee-in-berlin-movies