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Das Letzte Siegel

A comedy about trying to make a saint out of a slut, "The Last Seal" has just enough charm and gags to get auds through the first half, but after that they'll start wishing there was a storyline they could follow or a character that developed. Writer/director Stefan Daehnert's jab at the Catholic church is cute but can't seem to put any flesh on its bones, and in the end the director forgets the point he's trying to make. Don't expect great word of mouth on this one.

A comedy about trying to make a saint out of a slut, “The Last Seal” has just enough charm and gags to get auds through the first half, but after that they’ll start wishing there was a storyline they could follow or a character that developed. Writer/director Stefan Daehnert’s jab at the Catholic church is cute but can’t seem to put any flesh on its bones, and in the end the director forgets the point he’s trying to make. Don’t expect great word of mouth on this one.

Pic purports to be about a small-town priest with doubts (Josef Ostendorf) who’s assigned to find proof that one of his former sheep (Marion Reuter), whom he knows to have been a loose woman, really did perform the miracles that have become attached to her posthumously.

The town is dependent on her saintly reputation for additional income, and the priest, in an odd way, managed to fall in love with her. This was a woman who not only lived on the edge of society but also had the advantage of being a humanitarian whose good deeds included helping illegal immigrants.

The priest sets out on a journey of discovery in which he is intended to discover not only the truth about the woman but also anti-denominational truths about himself and life in general. Here the storyline gets entangled in too many subplots and eventually gets lost. When the priest finally decides against the church, the audience isn’t quite sure why.

What helps save the film, especially in the first half, is Daehnert’s oddball sense of humor. Though his uneven directing and inadequate sense of timing often don’t do justice to his understated, quirky gags, they still come across.

Coupled with this is cameraman Juergen Juerges’ sometimes loud, extravagant sense of color and light, at times reminiscent of “Harold and Maude.”

Perfs are just this side of sparkling, however. Ostendorf’s lead is fat and sweaty enough to break the image of a priest, but he isn’t buoyant enough to make himself likable. Reuter’s saint/slut tries too hard as a woman on the edge to be funny. Honorable mention goes to silent charmer Bhasker as an East Indian illegal immigrant flower vendor who magically pops up when he is least expected and who, though understanding nothing, saves the day every time.

Das Letzte Siegel

Production: A Jost HerringFilm production, in association with NDR, WDR. Produced by Jost Herring. Directed, written by Stefan Daehnert.

Crew: Camera (color), Juergen Juerges; editor, Dagmar Lichius; music, Tassilo Jelde; art direction, Volker Schaefer; sound, Rolf Hapke. Reviewed at Hof Film Festival, Hof, Germany, Oct. 28, 1993. (In Berlin Film Festival -- New German Cinema.) Running time: 93 MIN.

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