Was bleibt (2012)

(no real spoilers)

Was bleibt (Home for the Weekend is the English title) is another good movie by Hans-Christian Schmid who, in my opinion, has not even made an average movie yet. It’s a family drama about a son coming back home to his family and his mother who announces she has decided to live without her medication, which upsets her husband and her other son. It is really fascinating how the drama unfolds, how the family constellation is shifting and how Marko, the homecoming son, tries to remain as a good a man as possible throughout. And even he is not perfect, which makes him all the more relatable. The film challenges us to work through all the family problems and does so very effectively by making all the relationships authentic and not painting anyone as particularly good or bad. The last ten minutes or so didn’t really work for me because the movie sets us up for a more satisfying conclusion we don’t get and the last line is too much on the nose. Apart from that, this is a really intriguing and well-made movie.

One of the main aspects of the movie is ignorance. What happens normally in families is that bad things are ignored and kept quiet as no one wants to admit anything is wrong. Everyone in this family has lived with Gitte’s (Corinna Harfouch, wonderful) illness for so long that they cannot accept that she might actually feel better. They ignore all her arguments, so convinced that they are right and she must be wrong. On the other hand, they all have their own secrets, Marko (Lars Eidinger, who is always brilliant, but especially grounded and charismatic here) doesn’t talk about his ruined marriage, Jakob (Sebastian Zimmler, also good for this rather thankless role) doesn’t mention his failing business and Günter, the father (Ernst Stötzner, walking a thin line of sympathy and annoyance), has enough secrets of his own. But it’s Gitte, whose only secret she shares with them, who has to suffer because in a way she forces them to face their secrets. It’s a powerful portrayal of ignorance and its trappings.

Another aspect that was shown in an interesting way was the failure of male superiority. Gitte always was the centre of the family, but only in the sense that everyone had to take care of her. When she proclaims to be cured, all men jump at protecting her, against her will. When she later makes a drastic decision in the movie, all three men act determined and authoritative, but it is fascinating to see how the movie makes all their male dominance achieves nothing. It is all just show and they remain completely helpless and are at Gitte’s mercy, even in her absence. There are scenes where the three of them make plans and calls and are so active, leaving Jakob’s girlfriend (Picco von Groote) behind as a babysitter, but eventually they just sit around waiting for something to happen. All their authority just crumbles because Gitte refuses to play the weak any longer, depriving them of a way to prove their male egos. All of this is really captivating, so it’s too bad the movie doesn’t really know what to do with all of this in its final moments. But it is still a very recommendable movie.