As We Were Dreaming


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

As We Were Dreaming
"The film can't be faulted for atmosphere... structurally, though, the cracks begin to show."

Although containing specifics of an East German childhood such as the Young Pioneers with their thumb on forehead "Always ready" salute, the latest feature by Andreas Dresen focuses on many of the universalities of coming of age - friendship, rebellion and the realisation that you are not immortal. Based on the book by Clemens Meyer, Wolfgang Kohlhaaseit's screenplay explores similar young male pack-hunting territory to Neds - although, it must be said, without the same level accomplishment or rigour.

The Leipzig-based story flits backwards and forwards in time with the main focus on Dani (Merlin Rose), from his childhood in the Eastern bloc to teenage years, which coincide with the collapse of East Germany. Like many teens, Dani and his chums Mark (Joel Basman), Rico (Julius Nitschkoff), Paul (Frederic Haselon) and Pitbull (Marcel Heupermann), indulge in drug-taking, drinking and a bit of vandalism for vandalism's sake, in between dreaming variously of a career in boxing, going to college and snogging their childhood friend Starlet (Ruby O Fee).

The film can't be faulted for atmosphere - whether it's the sight of the 13-year-old Mark and Dani watching an egg spinning in a newly acquired microwave, blithely unaware of what will happen, or Michael Hammon's kinetic camerawork accompanying the older teenagers on a joyride, the feel is immersive, giving a sense of the headrush experienced most often when we're young. There is also considerable humour in scenes involving the 13-year-old cast, with both sets of actors putting in compelling performances.

Structurally, though, the cracks begin to show, particularly in terms of the lack of emphasis placed on the character of Mark. At the beginning of the film - which we loop back to at the end - we see he and Dani talking in a church as though the story will be all about their friendship. Through the rest of the runtime, however, Mark fades into the backdrop, never acquiring the importance to make the emotional bookend scenes pay-off. Starlet is also weakly drawn, despite being the only real female character in the film, and used more as a plot device - turning up at just the right moment to move things along - rather than a fully formed part of the group.

Intertitles with bombastic statements such as "Murder in Deutschland" and "Thunderstorm in the brain" are more or a style tic than a helpful guide and, as the action becomes ever more sprawling, audiences may find themselves trying to use them to work out how much longer they have to sit and watch.

Reviewed on: 20 Feb 2015
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The story of five friends in Leipzig after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Director: Andreas Dresen

Writer: Wolfgang Kohlhaase, Clemens Meyer

Starring: Pit Bukowski, Joel Basman, Ruby O. Fee, Merlin Rose, Gerdy Zint, Dorothea Walda, Peter Schneider, Henning Peker, Marie Luise Stahl, Ramona Kunze-Libnow, Julius Nitschkoff, David Berton, Ronald Kukulies, Joachim Nimtz, Clemens Meyer

Year: 2015

Runtime: 117 minutes

Country: Germany, France


BIFF 2015

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