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BERLINALE 2012 Competition / Germany

Home for the Weekend: the portrait of a modern family

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Home for the Weekend: the portrait of a modern family

Even when he treads on a new path, films by German director Hans-Christian Schmid are decidedly always impeccable. After Storm [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Alexander Fehling
interview: Hans-Christian Schmid
film profile
]
, a legal thriller that doubles as a psychological drama, the director (and producer via his company 23/5) suggested to his scriptwriter Bernd Lange in their third collaboration that they work on a project revolving around a familiar situation instead of an unusual intrigue. Indeed, Home for the Weekend [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, screened during the competition in Berlin, is about something to which everybody can easily relate: today’s family.

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Even it is not the first film about an ordinary family reunion in German cinema and even if the film’s clean-cut decor is reminiscent of a German interior design catalogue, the Heidtmann family’s composition, played by a brilliant troop of actors, corresponds to a modern family diagram that is quite universal. There are the parents/grandparents who are still far from being old, and their children, who depend more on the generation above than their parents at the same age, yet are their equals as they already have their own children. (Here, they call their parents, their children’s grandparents, by their first names.)

At the beginning of this film, Marko (Lars Eidinger), a writer, takes his son Zowie to visit his parents, who share their perfect home with his brother Jakob and his wife. Marko has come without his partner but definitely intends to hide that this is because they are going through a rough patch, just as Jakob tries to hide that the dentist’s practice set up with his parents’ help is, in fact, a financial black hole. Their mother Gitte (Corinna Harfouch) has been severely depressed for thirty years, meaning that she has to stay at home on heavy medication while their father Günter, a publisher about to retire, makes the commute between his work, during the week, and home, during the weekend. This time, though, something disturbs the family’s balance, when Gitte announces that she has been off her medication for two months.

For Günter and Jakob in particular, the news comes as a great shock, as they fear that the depression that so affected their past will re-emerge, adding to their current troubles. Each in their own way, the family members start to stalk her every expression for signs of renewed depression and continue to walk on egg shells around her. This makes Gitte feel like “a piece of furniture” and creates friction between Jakob and Marko, the only one to decide to be an advocate for transparency and thus for trust in the family, so that he ends up being a disturbing figure, he who does not live in the family home and “comes from outside”.

In his new film, Schmid succeeds in letting us observe the subtle dynamics of a modern family, a finally always solidary organism, and his intelligent film is well-matched by the restrained performance of a marvellous Eidinger.

(Translated from French)

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