Money is the root of all evil, money can’t buy you happiness, or as Biggie Smalls put it so fittingly, “mo’ money, mo’ problems.” It’s a little hard to believe if you don’t really have much of it, but in the case of Hans, there seems to be more than enough money to come to such conclusions. Hans lives in Cologne, wears business suits, and decides to give up his job and his regular life. He calls his parents, then gives his iPhone to some kids on the streets and buys a photograph off a kebap vendor of some beautiful house near a lake to go on a trip south in the vague hope to find that house – or at least happiness – on the way.
Hans is a little hard to understand as a character, but no one else in the hilariously bananas road movie makes much sense either. Hans Dampf, or Hans in Luck (the Grimm fable the film is veeery loosely based on) or whatever his name is, has the face of a hot catalogue model and the body of someone who forgot to go to the gym 7 years ago. When he speaks, it seems like a wannabe gangster kid from the streets of Neukölln has gotten a little too high. You can never really be sure whether Hans is just the most chilled out dude on the planet or possibly a little retarded. I shouldn’t say that because it’s offensive to actual retarded people, but if you get to know the ensemble of Hans Dampf, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Take Rose, for example. The journey starts when Hans helps her pack her car and later convinces her to drive her little bus to Italy. Rose has a French accent, a funny way of speaking (like everyone else), and quickly becomes the love of his Hans’ life before she makes out with a fat stranger in a water tank…or something like that. It’s really hard to describe the “plot” of this film because, like its protagonists, Hans Dampf doesn’t really know where it’s going which makes it so fun to watch and so insanely unpredictable at the same time.
The next inexplicable nonsensical companion of Hans is Django – and no, he has nothing of the taciturn and violent Western hero and nothing of Jamie Foxx’s coolness. Django is a little “balla-balla,” as Hans mentions at one point, not really to be trusted and a bit of a self-righteous pain-in-the-ass, like those Germans who tell you that you’re riding on the wrong bike lane when no one else is on the street. Anyways, the journey continues and Hans – just like the irrational Grimm fairy tale hero – trades his bus for a shabby truck and then trades this truck for a rubber boat, which causes tensions to heat up between Hans and Django.
So far, it’s been a good year for films that ignore logical storytelling and present you with a series of What the fuck? moments, as seen in the brilliant Modest Reception or the beautifully mad Kaspar Hauser. Hans Dampf effortlessly joins their rows and proves that gaga is not just a pop music phenomenon, but a great way to make a film. Get ready for people who start singing in the middle of a scene, for fluffy roosters to fall from the sky, and expect a lot of miscommunication for various and the most absurd reasons.
“Money is the root of all evil” is what filmmakers Jukka Schmidt and Christian Mrasek put in the end credits and they add, “produced without any corporate sponsoring”. In fact, Hans Dampf was shot for only € 50.000 with a small crew of ambitious and adventurous allies in Germany and Italy. The shooting locations were mostly found the very same day and despite the exploitation of everyone involved, the sparks of low-key film enthusiasm and improvisation light up the screen with every frame. Schmidt and Mrasek give out the strong message here that you don’t need a lot of money to do what you want to do if you really want to do it. Like Hans, they find their happiness in the small things and come up with an extremely charming, properly freaky, and very entertaining little film. Have fun!
Hans Dampf, Germany 2013, 91 min.
Watch the trailer: Here!
directors: Jukka Schmidt/Christian Mrasek, cinematography: Kawa Vakil, actors: Fabian Backhaus, Mario Mentrup, Nina Schwabe, Cécile Marmier, languages: German (in various forms), good Italian, bad Italian, some French and some songs, distributor: Real Fiction
Berlin screenings: Eiszeit (crew will attend the screening on Saturday, 31.08.), Lichtblick (crew will attend the screening on Sunday, 01.09.)
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