A COFFEE IN BERLIN (“Oh Boy,” Jan Ole Gerster, 2012, Germany)

OH BOY || 2012, Germany || Drama || Directed by – Jan Ole Gerster / Produced by – Jan Ole Gerster, Jorg Himstedt, Marcos Kantis, Birgit Kamper, Martin Lehwald, Timon Modersohn, Michal Pokorny, Tom Schilling, Alexander Wadouh / Screenplay by – Jan Ole Gerster / Music by – Cherilyn MacNeil, The Major Minors / Cinematography by – Philipp Kirsamer / Editing by – Anja Siemens / Starring – Tom Schilling, Marc Hosemann, Friedericke Kempter / Running time: 83 mins.

coffeeinberlinposterOh Boy (also known as A Coffee in Berlin), marks a return of the character driven movie in which the leading figure is a young man alienated from the society around him.

Niko (Tom Schilling) is a quiet young man – a college drop-out lacking a sense of direction and full of insecurities. Jan Ole Gerster structures his film in a non-traditional way: he makes no particular use of the beginning, middle and end format and is rather more interested in a story that would reflect a slice-of-life impulsiveness. Thus, we follow the character as he drinks coffee, goes on a date, meets his father and so on. Even the tension that arises from his sudden realization that he is broke and that his father will stop supporting him financially remains somewhat marginal.

This is a type of filmmaking that is often associated with 60’s new wave. It is therefore stylistically appropriate that the film should be photographed in black and white. This stylistic choice also empathizes with the character of Niko, who himself seems unable to identify himself with the world around him. Nevertheless, the black and white photography is also employed in a way that encourages distance between film and audience. As such, Gerster never forces us to like him; neither does Schilling’s introverted performance.

To be sure, the film does indulge in excessive “preciousness,” in its hipsterish type of outlook on the world. And while not everyone will automatically be able to identify with Niko, though it is definitely a more genuine portrayal than the vast majority of similar ones, there is still an explorative delight to be found in Oh Boy’s depiction of the streets of Berlin, that play an active role in the overall vision, its fashionable coffeehouses and smoky bars. – 4/5

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