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Reckoning

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MIRACLE OF BERN, THE

SYNOPSIS:
In the lead up to the 1954 World Cup, young soccer fan Matthias 'Mattie' Lubanski (Louis Kamroth) is the personal mascot for local German player Helmut Rahn (Sacha Göpel). As the German team heads for Bern and the finals, Mattie's father Richard (Peter Lohrmeyer) returns from Russian prison camps, 12 years after he left for the front - shortly before Mattie was born. His return is marred by his traumatized behaviour, which creates much family conflict. But as the German team edge toward the finals, and Richard begins to deal with his new life, the Lubanski family finds equilibrium again, Mattie gets a chance to barrack for Rahn and Germany stands a chance against the ruling champs, Hungary.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
"All I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football" - Albert Camus, author and Algerian national team goalkeeper. Legendary football manager Bill Shankley correctly said "football isn't just a matter of life and death, it's much more important than that". As a subscriber to this view, dear reader, I beg your indulgence briefly. As a Dutch-Australian who remembers the agonizing defeat of Holland by West Germany in the 1974 World Cup final as if it happened just yesterday, I openly declare I was not well disposed to the idea of a film celebrating German success on the football field. Reflecting the way in which "the beautiful game" inspires exultation, it has been my great pleasure to be won over by The Miracle Of Bern. Put into historical context, West Germany's shock victory in 1954 is credited with kick-starting Germany's post-war economic boom and restoring battered national pride.

That sense of fallen national spirit is embodied resolutely by the excellent Peter Lohmeyer as gaunt patriarch Richard. In the decade he's languished in a Soviet prison, his enterprising wife Christa (Johanna Gastdorf) has been making a go of her bistro business, while son Matthias (Louis Klamroth) has local football star Helmut 'The Boss' Rann firmly established as stand-in father. The optimism of the new generation is channeled through Munich sports journalist Paul Ackerman (Lucas Gregorowicz) and his ditzy new bride Annette (Katharina Wackernagel). Their all-mod-cons apartment is awash in day-glo colours, in stark contrast to the drab blues and grays of the Lubanski household.

Although he doesn't quite weave these two stories together seamlessly, director Sönke Wortmann (whom, it's worth noting, played in Germany's lower divisions in his youth) succeeds wonderfully well in sweeping the human stories up into the exhilarating tale of West Germany's progress in the World Cup. You don't have to be a football fan to feel the excitement as the supposedly outclassed team claws its way into the final against a Hungarian team that had not been defeated in almost 4 years.

With humour at the forefront and a backbone of emotionally resonant drama, the result is a feel-good movie packed with visual flair and an infectious, uplifting spirit. Forget any old-hat ideas about Germans not being able to do comedy that travels. As this film and Good Bye Lenin demonstrate, Germany's new generation of filmmakers have the chops to generate big laughs - in anyone's language. Die-hard football fans might be slightly disappointed with the on-field sequences, with heavily CGd imagery of Bern's recently demolished Wankdorf stadium giving a slightly surreal look to the games. In the final analysis, this is only a minor quibble in a thoroughly entertaining film that presses all the right buttons.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Well received at home, Miracle of Bern is unusual for a sport film in that it knits together not one but two subplots with the historic document of Germany's unexpected 3-2 win over Hungary at the 1954 World Cup. The soccer is a backdrop - albeit a large and important one - for the two stories: one about a returned POW whose experiences make him a dreary shit of a dad, the other about a young sports reporter and his bride, who has to give up the honeymoon for a stadium seat so her man can advance his career.

The latter is a frilly romantic story that does nothing for the film except add a bit of context, while the main subplot is resolved with a simplistic scene in which the returned father opens up to his family about the ugliness he had to go through. This cathartic scene is all it takes to make him more loving and understanding and lovable.

The simplistic treatment should be forgiven, though, because the screenplay does have the right intentions and the weaving together of these stories is well executed. Performances are excellent, and the film's production design evokes the 50s in Europe without overstatement.

The Lubinski family makes a great showcase for German society at the time, and all the details of their lives are carefully observed.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

MIRACLE OF BERN, THE (PG)
(German)

Das Wunder von Bern

CAST: Louis Kamroth, Peter Lohmeyer, Johanna Gastdorf, Mirko Lang, Birthe Wolter, Katharina Wackernagel, Lucas Gregorowicz, Peter Franke, Sacha Göpel, Knut Hartwig, Holger Dexner, Simon Verhoeven

PRODUCER: Hanno Huth, Tom Spiess, Sönke Wortmann

DIRECTOR: Sönke Wortmann

SCRIPT: Sönke Wortmann, Rochus Hahn

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tom Fährmann

EDITOR: Ueli Christen

MUSIC: Marcel Barsotti

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ursula Welter

RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Gil Scrine Films

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 28, 2005







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