ThePingOfPong

Pieces on Film, Prose and Music by a Nigerian

Tag: Germany

DAY 11: IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE. REALLY

 

 

A great number of Nigerians will always be shocked when a slap leads to a life changing decision by a kid in any number of foreign films. In It’s a Jungle Out There, yet another white kid storms out of her father’s house when he slaps her in the heat of a fierce argument, which of itself is a taboo in these parts.

Anna’s 17th birthday leads to a hangover that sees her returning parents- Wolfgang and Karin- come back shocked as they observe their house is in disarray: someone has carved a radish into a phallus; revelers sleep in misshapen moulds on the furniture; bottles are strewn all over the sitting room; and to top it, her dad’s precious Thelonious Monk record is broken. This latter bit drives the jazz loving politician into frenzy, and in the shouting match that ensues Wolfgang slaps Ana. Angrily she packs her bag and hitches a ride- with another runaway, Simon- into Munich, which is the German Lagos but with worse nightclubs.

Slaps from fathers never provoke drama in Nigeria. It ends it. If that doesn’t work, there are whips, belts, canes. In short, like the Paul Thomas Anderson film, there will be blood.

In that light, everyone should be thankful that Western Africa is not the setting for this funny, warm and insightful coming of age story. There are no twists– you probably know what will happen, over the course of a day. Ana will fall in love, stood up, cheated on, nearly raped, smoke cigarettes, meet fellow runaways and eventually find a way home. On his part, Simon’s vehicle runs out of gas and he is too broke to refill.

The real drama and the film’s most affecting moments derives from the parents’ own behavior in the kids absence and the diary keeping habits of Anna’s younger sister. All four parents drive into Munich but return empty-handed, once home they begin a reveling of their own as they smoke leftover hashish from Ana’s party; once drunk and high, confessions are uttered and old wounds are reopened. The discussion is at first harmless, as they discuss the wild ways of the youth but as alcohol relaxes their inhibitions, it turns out their youth was as turbulent, if not more so, as Anna and Simon’s. As far as two pairs of parents arguing in an apartment goes, it predates the Roman Polanski 2010 film, Carnage which features infinitely more bellicose parents. Wolfgang who is in the middle of a campaign finally lets down his hair proving something that is easy to forget amidst all the onscreen posturing and moralizing: politicians were young once.

Released in 1995, It’s a Jungle Out There’s age shows in its visuals which has a feel similar to those 90s soap opera, NTA loved to show. The soundtrack is apt; it celebrates Jazz in the manner Almost Famous celebrated Rock music in 2001.

As families never really change, It’s a Jungle Out There serves its function very well- it worked then, it works now. It is a warm family comedy drama celebrating that most basic unit of society, the family, and only the most dysfunctional members of dysfunctional families will not have an urge to hug a parent after watching.

Don’t blame the film; it does its best. Blame the several slaps.

DAY 5: EDUCATING THE RICH

 

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Germany’s first film at the ongoing European Film Festival, Hans Weingarter’s The Edukators is a love story, a thriller and a study of modern activism. Two young men, Jan and Peter, break into apartments owned by the rich, scribble radical/revolutionary graffiti on the walls and ‘rearrange’ the furniture. When Jan, learns of an enormous debt owed by Jule (Peter’s girlfriend) upon crashing into a wealthy businessman’s Mercedes, he helps her break into the home of Hardenberg the rich creditor as he considers the situation as an injustice. The plan goes awry when Hardenberg unexpectedly shows up and in the struggle that ensues he is kidnapped and taken to a cabin in the Austrian Alps. The revolutionaries later discover that Hardenberg was himself a revolutionary as a youngster and this revelation provokes an argument about the benefits of capitalism, idealism- which Hardenberg insists is a luxury of the young- and the thin line between revolution and terrorism.

The vehemence and logic behind the arguments is reminiscent of the HBO movie, The Sunset Unlimited, but where that film had two characters backed by decades of experience, this contrasts youthful idealism with elderly realism. But even said idealism is tinged with cynicism as the young characters are convinced that revolutions are no longer what they used to be- in a beautifully shot scene with Jan and Jule talking in a balcony overlooking the city at dusk, Jan laments over the commercialization of revolutions: “All that was subversive, you can buy in shops today- Che Guevara t-shirts, anarchy stickers…”

With commendable performances from all three leads, The Edukators gets out its anti-capitalist message very well despite the diversion into an exploration of the love triangle that develops when Jule falls in love with Jan. The juxtaposition of love and riots has been explored sexually in another European film, Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers and here the trio of characters mostly stays clothed, and while those in The Dreamers were oblivious of the protests right outside their windows, Jan, Jule and Peter are the protests themselves.

Inevitably, the youth revolt at the heart of this film readily echoes the Occupy Nigeria protest that engulfed major cities in the country in January and any number of prominent people in Nigeria can be real-life stand-ins for Hardenberg. Only the utterly clueless will fail to see that cinema irrespective of country of origin is an avenue to explore man’s common humanity. What is more, as in life, The Edukators, proffers no easy solutions- the anti-capitalist youngsters become close to disillusion when they see the very concept they stand against start to creep into their psyche; Hardenberg concedes to the reasoning behind their actions and appears to have a change of heart but not for long; in life, in Nigeria, the protests died with barely a whimper.

Art imitates life and in arguments of this type, no one is readily converted: as has been said in J.M Coetzee’s Disgrace, “The skull, followed by the temperament: the two hardest parts of the body.”

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