Review: ‘Measures to Better the World’

Pic is a sporadically hilarious, no-budget mockumentary in the Christopher Guest mold that suggests seven such panacea for these troubled times. Modest triumph of comic invention will be in demand from fest programmers looking for something authentically unique, and has "cult" written all over it. Promising tube and ancillary sales are also indicated.

A deadpan exploration of utopian ideals, universal in their myopic sincerity yet rendered positively surreal when filtered through the German penchant for precision, “Measures to Better the World” is a sporadically hilarious, no-budget mockumentary in the Christopher Guest mold that suggests seven such panacea for these troubled times. This modest triumph of comic invention will be in demand from fest programmers looking for something authentically unique from the region, and has “cult” written all over it for distribs willing to nurture this scruffy discovery in Berlin fest’s Perspektive Deutsches Kino program. Promising tube and ancillary sales are also indicated.

In “The Green Light Society,” scientists tackle the tough issue of persuading motorists to accelerate simultaneously from a dead stop, while citizens cope with encounter groups that involve disastrous trust exercises. “The Sorbian Euro” looks at the potentially harmful economic effect of the German urge to save by introducing currency with a six-week sell-by date in a remote corner of Saxony.

“Private Initiative for Aesthetics” recounts one parking attendant’s brave mission to persuade commuters to park according to color in a busy Berlin lot, while “Rent-a-Brother” addresses both decreasing birth figures and mass unemployment by hiring out adults as siblings to only-children.

“New Energy” suggests a way to reign in heightened levels of consumption by walking more slowly; “try following the example of the deep sea sponge,” advises an official. In “Operation 1.90,” shoe lifts are utilized to level everyone to same height, thus removing gulfs in status and self-esteem. Finally, in the spirit of seeing the world in a different way, “Outdoor Office” challenges becalmed workers by moving cubicles to the sidewalk and shifting business hours to overnight.

Pic is the brainchild of arts students Jorn Hintzer and Jakob Huefner, whose motto in the film’s presskit is: “We need more maniacs who have the courage to follow an idea, even if it seems totally senseless.” Proceedings start out gangbusters but inevitably suffer from over-ambition in the late going.

Thesping is cannily awkward and thus completely realistic, putting one in mind of nothing so much as the most recent generation of those whacked-out Stateside car insurance TV ads with the talking lizard. Co-director Huefner appears in two episodes, vet helmer Jan Schuette (“SuperTex,” “Dragon Chow”) pops up in “Rent-a-Brother,” and someone named Peter Berning limns a chameleon-like talking head named Johannes Schleede who manages to weigh in with “expert” opinions during each seg.

Measures to Better the World

Germany

Production

A correction was made to the alternate title on May 2, 2005. A Datenstrudel production. (International sales: Datenstrudel, Berlin.) Produced, directed, written by Jorn Hintzer, Jakob Huefner.

Crew

Camera (color), Volker Mai, Jorg Pfeiffer, Daniella Knapp, Aleksandar Kerkovic, Volker Gerling, Matthias Schellenberg; editors, Dan Loghin, Carolin Ernstling, Andrea Huebers, Philip Schaefer, Jessica Ehlebracht; set designers, Kathrin Hieronimus, Anne Fenk, Andre Ceada-Cruhl, Arndt Kuehne, Katja Fuessel; sound, Loghin, Jan Enste, Lea Saby, Till Nachtman, Yannic Herrmannsdoerfer. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Perspektive Deutsches Kino) Feb. 13, 2005. Running time: 75 MIN.

With

Andreas Nickl, Peter Berning, Katja Rosin, Christoph Bach,
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