That a newly freed East German, jailed just prior to reunification, must remind himself “Berlin Is in Germany,” is the central conceit of this provocative but insular and downbeat new drama. Pic won the Berlin fest’s Panorama Audience Prize, suggesting a resonance to locals that could translate abroad with some very special handling. Item is certainly an eye-opener for those who think wall’s presence is no longer felt.
Released from the Brandenburg Penitentiary after being incarcerated for an accidental murder in July 1989, 38-year-old former engine fitter Martin Schultz (Jorg Schuttauf) barely recognizes new Berlin for all construction cranes looming on horizon. Attempting to reconnect with former wife Maneula (Julia Jager) and son Rokko (Robin Becker), Martin is thwarted by hostility of Manuela’s b.f. and must fall back on support of shady pals. He befriends co-worker Ludmila (Edita Malovcic) at the sex shop where he works, but fate conspires against him, and it takes a selfless act to set him on what may or may not be right road. Adapted from helmer’s 1999 short, meticulously researched pic combines resolutely realistic tech approach with sly humor inherent in ex-con’s poignant learning curve.