The Hairdresser a colourful film with an appetite for life
by Bénédicte Prot
The Berlinale special screenings continue, year after year, to be very well attended, particularly when it comes to local productions, and Doris Dörrie’s The Hairdresser [+see also:
film profile] was no exception to the rule, leaving a few disappointed journalists at the door.
Two years after the competition screening of her superb and highly subtle Cherry Blossoms - Hanami [+see also:
film profile], the German director returns with a film, which for the first time she hasn’t written for herself (screenwriter Laila Stieler based the story on a hairdresser she knew), a pure comedy full of colour, in the literal and figurative sense, whose central character, the hairdresser of the title, is a paragon of “joie de vivre”.
Kathi (Gabriela Maria Schmeide, who had to gain almost 50kg for the role), is the proverbial plump woman who is brimming with cheerfulness and, despite the impression that her figure and predilection for rather tacky adornments (hair streaks of every colour, fruit-shaped jewellery...) may make at the start of the film, we can’t help but feel immensely endeared to this East German woman who is comfortable with herself (indeed she accepts with good grace other people’s reactions to her “monstrous appearance", on which Dörrie’s camera lingers, fascinated) and continues to smile in the face of adversity.
But she doesn’t have an easy life, with her difficulties as an unemployed person living on the 10th floor (with a broken-down lift) of a block of council flats in the Marzahn area of Berlin, her multiple sclerosis and the rejections she faces, including from her husband, who has left her for her best friend; her daughter, who is vaguely ashamed of her; and the stuck-up beautician who refuses to hire her because she doesn’t find her "aesthetically pleasing".
When Kathi decides to open her own salon, more and more obstacles of all kinds stand in her way, but her enormous energy (as the director pointed out at the press conference, you only have to see the effort needed just to haul herself out of bed in the morning to understand the character’s strength) also brings her some delightful encounters.
One of the most comical episodes in the film is precisely when, by taking part in a "rice" delivery (she agrees, in exchange for money, to help a group of Vietnamese people cross the border), she makes friends with this band of slender immigrants crammed into her apartment and discovers that she shares not only their difficulty in fitting into society but also their love of colourful attire.
The film, which will be released on German screens next Thursday by Constantin, is marked by a universally infectious joy and generosity, but it should particularly appeal to German audiences with its humorous references to the country’s history and the East-West split, subjects of which they are fond.
(Translated from French)
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