Review: ‘NVA’

German cinema's newfound nostalgia for all things formerly East is taken to logical, if somewhat strained, limits in 1980s-set army-recruit comedy "NVA." Though conceived by the helmer who started it all with "Sun Alley" in 1999, Leander Haussmann, and prolific wunderkind actor-producer-director Detlev Buck ("Jailbirds"), the pic is too scattershot and strained to travel much beyond German-lingo territories, though DVD sales should be brisk.

German cinema’s newfound nostalgia for all things formerly East is taken to logical, if somewhat strained, limits in 1980s-set army-recruit comedy “NVA.” Though conceived by the helmer who started it all with “Sun Alley” in 1999, Leander Haussmann, and prolific wunderkind actor-producer-director Detlev Buck (“Jailbirds”), the pic is too scattershot and strained to travel much beyond German-lingo territories, though DVD sales should be brisk.

When conscripted into the National People’s Army (NVA), wide-eyed recruit Henrik (Kim Frank, former lead singer of defunct German band Echt) falls in with born rebel Krueger (Oliver Broecker) and for Marie (Jasmin Schwiers), daughter of commandant Kalt (co-producer Detlev Buck). Situational shenanigans hardly need subtitles, so obvious are the jabs at authority. Pic is dedicated “In Memoriam 1949-1999,” further fetishizing the German Democratic Republic without either the novelty or lightness of touch found in Haussmann’s breakthrough look at daily life in the GDR. Tech package is smart, led by Lothar Holler’s determinedly retro production design. Well-chosen vintage tunes include tracks from Creedence Clearwater Revival, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Canned Heat and Element of Crime’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”

NVA

Germany

Production

A Delphi release (in Germany) of a Boje Buck production, in association with Seven Pictures Film. (International sales: Beta Cinema, Oberhaching, Germany.) Produced by Claus Boje. Directed by Leander Haussmann. Screenplay, Thomas Brussig, Haussmann.

Crew

Camera (color), Frank Griebe; editor, Hansjoerg Weissbrich; music, Paul Lemp, Marcel Blatti; production designer, Lothar Holler; costume designer, Doris Haussmann. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (New German Films), Feb. 16, 2006. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Kim Frank, Oliver Broecker, Detlev Buck, Jasmin Schwiers, Maxim Mehmet, Philippe Graber, Daniel Zillmann, Robert Gwisdek.

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