Synopsis by Mark Deming
A man gets in touch with his spiritual side for a very material reason in this comedy from Germany. Jacob Zuckermann was a young man living in Eastern Germany when the Berlin Wall divided the nation in 1961. Jacob's mother escaped to West Berlin with her other son, Samuel, in tow, but Jacob was left behind. Putting himself though school, Jacob became a lawyer, albeit one with a less than prestigious practice, and changed his name to Jaeckie Zucker. However, after Germany was reunified, Jaeckie's (Henry Huebchen) practice collapsed, and he began making a living hustling pool. Luck has not been kind to Jaeckie lately, and he owes 60,000 dollars to the bank. Jaeckie thinks he could win enough money to pay his debts in an upcoming high-stakes pool tournament, but he doesn't have the 5,000 dollars needed to enter. Bad news has a silver lining for Jaeckie when he gets word that his mother has passed on, and he and Samuel stand to inherit a fortune from her estate. However, there's a catch -- she has specified she must have an Orthodox Jewish funeral if her sons are to receive the money, and while Samuel (Udo Samel) is a strict follower of the faith, Jaeckie's religious education stopped not long after his mother left. Jaeckie and his conspicuously gentile wife, Marlene (Hannelore Elsner), head to West Berlin, where they have a less-than-joyous reunion with Samuel and attempt to help with the details of the funeral while giving themselves an overnight education in Judaism. Meanwhile, Jaeckie schemes to find a way to sit shivah and play in the pool tournament at the same time.
bank, debt, Germany, Jewish, lawyer, mother, pool [billiards]