Synopsis by Nathan Southern
Not to be confused with the 1988 Sidney Lumet/River Phoenix drama of the same name, German helmer Buelent Akinci's bizarre drama Running on Empty follows Burkhard Wagner (Jens Harzer), a middle aged, door-to-door insurance salesman who lives out of his car, jetting along Teutonic highways and byways in a beaten-up Volvo and peddling policies to various area residents. Eccentric to the extreme (with a shrill, maniacal cackle that emerges from time to time and suggests that he has more than a few parts on order), Wagner nonetheless manages to sustain himself with a steady income. He is abetted by an oddball quirk: during sales pitches, he bursts into song, belting out French pop tunes, which inexplicably charm prospective customers. Burkhard also periodically pulls off of the Autobahn to drop quarters into pay phones and call his estranged wife, reassuring her constantly that he'll return home to her and their child as soon as he's able. However, he soon meets a sexy yet lonely bed-and-breakfast owner, Caroline (Marina Galic) at a nearby café. After stalking her multiple times, Burkhard accepts her invitation to come and reside at her inn. The relationship is riddled with buried motivations, but Akinci keeps things enigmatic, and defiantly refuses to spell out the film's ulteriors prior to its conclusion.
bed-and-breakfast, cafe, door-to-door, estrangement, insurance, insurance-agent, phone-call, salesperson