Absolute Giganten (1999)

Genres - Comedy, Comedy Drama, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Buddy Film, Road Movie, Urban Comedy, Urban Drama  |   Run Time - 77 min.  |   Countries - Germany  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Brian J. Dillard

This contemporary German coming-of-age story combines haunting depth and raucous humor with the kind of polished, style-infused surface that engages festival and multiplex audiences alike. The key is its heartfelt script, by first-time writer/director Sebastian Schipper, who, inspired by the Tom Waits song "Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night," turned a familiar tale of childhood's end into a thoughtful meditation on the tension between nostalgia and possibility. Producers Stefan Arndt and Tom Tykwer, fresh from their success with Run Lola Run, helped Schipper revise his original scenario several times in rapid succession, but the end result looks anything but rushed. Frank Griebe's reverent cinematography and Andrea Kessler's vivid art direction capture both the strip-mall shabbiness and the wide-open grandeur of modern European suburbia. The spot-on music, meanwhile, navigates smoothly between big, evocative strings and mood pieces by such techno notables as Finland's Jimi Tenor and France's Laurent Garnier. As Floyd, the young man whose imminent departure catalyses a night of desperate adventure, Frank Giering parlays his doe-eyed good looks and restrained demeanor into a charming and melancholy lead performance. Julia Hummer makes the young Telsa a model of quotidian luminescence, while Antoine Monot Jr. and Florian Lukas give their comic-relief sidemen just enough inner life to ring true. It would be easy to lose sight of the film's true beauty amid the technical finesse and gaudy excess of parking-lot dance videos, high-stakes foosball matches, and Elvis impersonators run amok. All such postmodern winking, however, is infused with a sense of bittersweet transcendence.