Hollywood has dried up, ladies and gentlemen. That goes without saying. It’s been a while since American audiences have seen anything original from Hollywood’s “Big Six.” Thankfully though, independent studios such as Level 33 Entertainment, Cohen Media Group, IFC Films, Anchor Bay Entertainment and Film Movement have taken over time and again over the past decade or so where Hollywood has failed, with so many enjoyable offerings. Film Movement offered audiences one of the most recent of those standout offerings early this past August when it released the German import Bye Bye Germany. The 102-minute (1-hour, 42-minute) dramedy is takes place in Post World War II-era Germany, but is not another one of those run-of-the-mill stories based on actual events or even some author’s book. Rather, it is its own work that SF Weekly writer Sherilynn Connelly accurately compared to works from the famed Cohen Brothers. With its original story, engaging acting from its cast, and a look that pulls viewers in just as much as those noted elements, Bye Bye Germany proves to be a work that will appeal equally to fans of WWII-era stories, dramedies and anyone simply looking for an alternative to Hollywood’s seemingly endless ocean of forgettable flicks.
Independent movie studio Film Movement’s recently released German import Bye Bye Germany likely will never get the attention that its American counterparts get, but the fact of the matter is that it is actually quite the entertaining offering, even being another WWII-era tale. That is thanks in part to the movie’s story. Unlike so many movies churned out by Hollywood’s “Big Six” Bye Bye Germany’s story is not another run-of-the-mill overly embellished work based on actual events. Rather, it is its own original story. The story takes audiences to Germany, 1946, just after the end of the war. A group of German Jews who survived the Holocaust have come up with a plan to get the money they need to get to America, and it involves tricking former Nazis who currently live in the region. It is complimented by a secondary story involving the group’s leader, David Bermann (Moritz Bleibtreu – Run Lola Run, In July, Atomised) being accused of conspiring with the Nazis. When one of his friends follows him to an interrogation session one day, he reports back to the others, leading to suspicion among the group. The final outcome won’t be revealed here, for the sake ok those who have not yet seen the movie, but the story overall will certainly keep audiences engaged. It is expertly balanced with the movie’s primary story to make a presentation in whole that forms a solid foundation for this movie and gives audiences plenty of reason in itself to watch. The movie’s dual-plot story is just one of the elements that makes Bye Bye Germany such an interesting presentation. The work of the movie’s cast adds even more interest to its whole.
The work of the movie’s cast stands out because of the subtlety in each actor’s work. Again, viewers should take note that this is another World War II movie, so even being dramedy, it would have been so easy for Bleibtreu and his cast mates to go over the top at any given point, but they didn’t do that. Case in point is Bleibtreu’s interrogation room scenes with co-star Antje Traue (Man of Steel, Pandorum, Woman in Gold). There were moments in which Sara (Traue) asked David questions that would have allowed David to become irate, yet he never did. Rather, he responded, again, with that noted subtlety each time. The less is more approach in these tense moments adds to much depth to the scenes, and pulls audiences in even more when coupled with the story that unfolds throughout. The same can be said of the revelations from David’s friends about their own past interactions with the Nazis. One reveals how an SS officer corralled his parents and a group of other Jews into a synagogue and burned them alive, while another reveals he lost his sight when another SS officer hit him repeatedly in the eye in a bar in China. Both men could have so easily hammed it up and overly emoted, but instead used a similar subtlety as they told their stories. The result is that each story makes each character that much more sympathetic, and in turn ensures even more viewers’ engagement. Even Antje Traue adds her own touch as she intently listens to David’s recollections of his efforts to survive in the POW camp. Whether in the more emotional moments of his testimony or some of the more lighthearted moments, Traue’s reactions to David’s testimony is spot on. Considering this and the other noted cast members’ work on camera (including that work not noted here), it can be said with ease that the work of the movie’s cast adds its own depth to the story; depth that in turn ensures even more, viewers’ engagement. Considering this along with the engagement insured through the movie’s story, and audiences see even more why Bye Bye Germany is well worth the watch. These elements are not the last of the movie’s most important elements. Its overall look rounds out its most important elements.
IMDB.com notes in its outline for Bye Bye Germany that in making sure the look of the movie was fully believable, the set design crew made certain to only use certain material that were period accurate, right down to the concrete and wood. That applied to the movie’s main set, the crossroad. Just as important to note is the look of Bermann’s store. The broken windows and dimly lit interior, with its empty floors and walls, collectively do a good job of showing what the Nazis did to the store. In the final act, Elsa (Jeanne Werner – Tied, Before The Winter Chill, Invisible Sue) sits on a bombed out part of the crossroad that looks just like the pictures taken from the war. Even here, it is obvious that the set/art design crew wanted to get things right so as to ensure even more, viewers’ engagement through suspension of disbelief. As if all of that is not enough, the cinematic effects used in the movie’s post production add their own interesting element to the movie’s look. It seems like there is a slight sepia-tone effect similar to that used in The Cohen Brothers’ hit movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? Used here to add to the general effect and look. That subtle addition to the movie’s presentation makes for even more interest. When it is considered along with the other general effect items noted here (and those not directly noted), the overall result is a presentation that is just as visually enjoyable as it is for the rest of its content. When it is all joined together, the noted elements make Bye Bye Germany a surprisingly enjoyable presentation whose overall appeal makes it one of this year’s hidden cinematic gems.
Bye Bye Germany is one of the most welcome cinematic surprises of this year. While it originally debuted in its home nation in 2017, its domestic debut this past April – and home domestic release in August – makes it a new release for American audiences. Keeping that in mind, it is one of this year’s best new imports and independent offerings at the same time. That is proven through an original two-part story that is certain in itself to keep audiences fully engaged from start to finish. The work of the movie’s cast does just as much to keep viewers engaged and entertained, as has been noted already. The work of the movie’s art/set design crew rounds out the movie’s most important elements. Their work does just as much to pull audiences into the movie as that of the writers and cast. Each item is important in its own right to the movie’s overall presentation. All things considered, they make Bye Bye Germany a movie to which so many audiences will want to say, “hello.”
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