Wild Mouse: Deconstructing a hero
by Bénédicte Prot
- BERLIN 2017: Actor and comedian Josef Hader has created a strange, delightfully fresh and comical world centred around the preposterous life crisis of a music critic who suddenly finds himself fired
With the inclusion of modern-day comedy Wild Mouse [+see also:
interview: Josef Hader
film profile], the directorial debut of Austrian actor Josef Hader who also stars in the film (seen recently in Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe [+see also:
interview: Maria Schrader
film profile], Germany’s pick for the upcoming Oscars), the Berlinale grants us a little comic relief, inviting audiences to laugh at themselves and the state of the world — or at least at a Europe which, away from the big screen, looks to be coming apart at the seams.
The protagonist, George (Hader), is a well-known classical music critic who is fired from his job at a highbrow newspaper to free it up for someone “younger and cheaper.” George is stunned to be so unceremoniously booted from his cushy position, and has something of a meltdown. Without saying a word to his wife Johanna (Pia Hierzegger), he starts harassing the superior who delivered the news of his dismissal and spending his days hanging around a theme park. There he bumps into an old classmate from a rather less auspicious background, Erich (Georg Friedrich), who used to pick on him at school. Erich now becomes his accomplice, helping him to plot unsavoury acts of revenge against his old boss and to carry out passé and asinine pranks requiring a balaclava and a huge and calculatedly ugly fish.
While our hero is busy wallowing narcissistically in his own failures (we see him naked in the snow amongst the rides, disguised in a doublet and wig) he has no idea that his wife is struggling with her own demons. In parallel to George’s crisis as a member of the upper middle class, Johanna waits for her husband to come home from work (or so she still believes), downing bottles of wine and hiding the evidence, desperate to have a child while time is still on her side. Although she is more preoccupied with the future than the past, and far more conscious of the differences between them, both are equally blinded by their own turmoil. Just like her husband, Johanna has no idea how erratic her other half’s behaviour has become, despite being a psychotherapist by profession. And just as George strikes up an odd friendship with Erich, we see Johanna pair off with some surprising characters: a gay patient who becomes a friend and with whom she engages in a little light flirting (he has his own problems to worry about), a much younger neighbour...
Ultimately, much like the unhinged minds of the central characters (or the cobblestones that Erich’s Romanian girlfriend brings home every day — they live together despite not speaking the same language) everything in Wild Mouse feels a bit chaotic, bizarre and jocular — except for the deteriorating state of the world of which we learn from the radio news far from Vienna. With this story, which manages to make a pertinent point while remaining an unbridled comedy, actor and comedian Hader has given us a chance to enjoy his off-beat humour and entertaining take on the society in which we live, without skimping on the quality of the cinematography or other artistic concerns. You have to admit, he might be on to something. Named after a theme park attraction, after Wild Mouse, we can’t help looking forward to our next ride.
(Translated from French)