26 February 2017

Berlinale 2017: 'Wilde Maus' Amusingly Profiles a Critic's Breakdown

Berlinale 2017: 'Wilde Maus' Amusingly Profiles a Critic's Breakdown


There's nothing like watching someone breakdown completely. Wilde Maus, which translates simply to Wild Mouse, is a dark comedy film from Austria which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. Austrian actor Josef Hader makes his feature directorial debut with the film, also writing the screenplay and starring as the lead character, a music critic from Vienna who loses his job after 20 years. The film follows Hader as Georg, who goes bonkers and starts wandering around Vienna trying to make sense of his life after losing the job that kept him focused for so long. He ends up creating some unnecessary problems with his wife, and randomly partners with a guy who wants to run a little rollercoaster at Vienna's Prater amusement park.
The title Wilde Maus is actually a specific reference to the rollercoaster - it's called the "Wilde Maus". This is clearly in reference to the idea that life is a wild ride of ups and downs just like the rollercoaster. The film doesn't go much deeper than that, spending most of its time giving us plenty of earnest humor to laugh at while we watch this guy fall apart. Georg's primary frustration is focused on his (ex-) boss Waller, played by Jörg Hartmann. All this chaos also suddenly brings up underlying issues with his wife Johanna, played by Pia Hierzegger, which increase throughout the film. However, it's his relationship with Erich, played by Georg Friedrich, a stubborn guy who just wants to work at the Prater, that matters the most in the end.
Wilde Maus is a fairly easy film to watch, in a good way, and that's part of what makes it so enjoyable. The comedy isn't cheesy or overt (like most Hollywood comedies), it's dark and clever, and the film moves at a swift pace with even more craziness waiting around every corner. It's crafted in a refreshingly enjoyable way that, while it is occasionally depressing to watch, the audience is never meant to feel so bad for this guy that we can't laugh at him/with him. And this is not really a criticism, that's actually a compliment. Obviously this isn't a documentary, but it does feel real enough that we can empathize with him and yet still be amused by his antics as he tries to figure out what to do in his life when everything gets wild and he loses his mind.
My biggest issue with the film is the ending. We spend so much time watching him fall apart, and attempt to rekindle his relationships, that there's a sense it's leading to something. Obviously there won't be a "happily ever after" ending, but I was expecting some kind of conclusion, even some poignant message about making it through the most treacherous parts of our life. After one of the wackiest moments where Georg ends up stripping down to his boxers and sitting in the snow, we end up back in Vienna without any real conclusion at all. It ends suddenly, quickly, in the middle of an argument. Wait, what? That's it…? What about this, or that? I guess that's life for you. There's no real ending, it just keeps going like a never-ending rollercoaster.
Alex's Berlinale 2017 Rating: 8 out of 10

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