Are Germans really funny? That question was posed to director Maren Ade and actors Peter Simonischek and Sandra Huller, whose critically acclaimed dramedy “Toni Erdmann” screened for press and industry at the New York Film Festival on Monday, October 3. We’ll see if the motion picture academy thinks so — the film was chosen to represent Germany in this year’s Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film.
“Everybody thinks that of other nations,” said Ade about the cultural stereotype that Germans aren’t funny. And according to Huller, “We never had the feeling that we were doing a comedy … We were playing a tragedy mostly, but the people are so desperate that they become funny.”
“Toni Erdmann” contains both laughter and pathos in its story of Winfried (Simonischek), a prankster who visits his straitlaced daughter Ines (Huller), a business consultant trying to land an important client in Bucharest. Their personalities and life philosophies clash, so Winfried invents a new persona, Toni, with which to bond with his daughter.
The film doesn’t open in the US until Christmas, but it’s already one of the most lauded films of the year, scoring 93 on MetaCritic and 93% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing. Even more remarkably it’s already one of the most acclaimed films of the 21st century, tying for 100th place in the BBC’s recent poll of the best films since 2000.