Goodbye Berlin

The new film from acclaimed wunderkind Turkish/German director Fatih Akin who is credited with reviving German auteur cinema with his landmark award-winning film Head-On (2004), and other cross cultural clashes such as The Edge of Heaven (2007), Soul Kitchen (2009) and In the Fade (2017), is Goodbye Berlin (2016), a hilarious joyride which ultimately becomes a revealing and touching coming-of-age story that looks at teen angst through the eyes of an unlikely pair of socially awkward misfits who find friendship on a playful transformative road trip through the German countryside.

A soul searching comedy that has the heart-felt sincerity of Kikujiro (1999) and the free-spirited hijinks of Northern Soul (2015), Goodbye Berlin follows two outcasts from a high school in Berlin at the beginning of the summer vacation. It starts out looking pretty dismal for the 14 year old Maik Klingenberg (Tristan Göbel), who’s bored out of his mind playing video games in his divorced parent’s empty house. His alcoholic mother is in rehab and his father goes on a business trip with his young secretary who is old enough to be his daughter. 

To top it all off, he’s the only kid in the class not invited to Tatiana’s big birthday bash, the girl he has been admiring from a distance all year and who doesn’t even notice him while his classmates make fun of him. Into this depressing mess comes Tschick (Anand Batbileg), a strange Russian migrant student just arrived at the school who is even more  pathetic than he is, in fact, apart from his Asian looks, Tschick stands out like a homeless person who cares nothing for what people think of him. His intimidating half-conscious snarl keeps the other students at a distance. 

But Tschick finds a shared connection with Maik, and when Tschick shows up at his house with a beat-up old Lada, he catches Maik at just the right time to start on a crazy adventure and finally be noticed by Tatiana in a way she will never forget. But what they discover on their wild journey reveals more about each other than they imagined and will change them forever. 

The innovative visual aesthetic, which has become a hallmark of Fatih’s films, finds us following our teen heroes through a variety of visually disparate locations while they are essentially living moment to moment surviving by their wits as they push their boundaries in a raucous road movie that’s engaging and enjoyable to watch from beginning to end. Fatih makes excellent use of the drone camera to create beautiful high pan-out shots that hover over stunning country landscapes giving us a bird’s-eye view that adds to the sense of freedom the boys are experiencing. 

Music has always been an integral part of Fatih Akin’s films, a component that he’s passionate about and this one is no exception. Here the soundtrack is especially remarkable and well integrated into the story with an eclectic mix of German rap, hard rock, 80s pop, and classical music.

Based on the bestselling novel Why We Took the Car by German author Wolfgang Herrndorf, the story’s themes of societal and cultural outsiders coming together to overcome their differences and form a strong bond through shared experiences, attracted Fatih Akin immediately into making a film from it.

What makes it so much fun is the clear chemistry of the two lead characters Maik and Tschick who are totally believable as the odd pair of outcasts and who learn from each other the possibilities of a world beyond their school and transforms Maik into a new person who people will notice and admire.

It’s a positive hopeful film that’s thoroughly enjoyable on many levels. We feel that the director was clearly enjoying himself a great deal while making this film. Goodbye Berlin is a must see that hits all the right notes and has all the elements of a coming-of-age film put together in just the right way.


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