BERLIN — Benjamin and Dominik Reding, the German sibling duo whose gritty, award-winning homoerotic drama “Oi! Warning” dazzled international film festival auds in 1999, are back with a new film that again focuses on outsiders while exploring one of Germany’s oldest and most arcane occupational customs.
Traditions die hard in Germany, and one that’s still practiced by young journeymen of the ancient and mysterious craftsmen’s guild is the Wanderjahre, or years of travel, a custom that dates back to the 12th century.
As part of their training, journeymen, attired in traditionally antiquated garb, must travel the country on foot for three years, relying on both the kindness of strangers and their own skills to survive.
In “Fuer den Unbekannten Hund” (For the Unknown Dog), which the Redings wrote, produced and directed, a troubled young construction worker flees town after killing a homeless man for no apparent reason and ends up joining a wandering group of journeymen. At first put off by the simple life and lack of creature comforts, he soon learns to appreciate the camaraderie of his companions and a growing friendship with an enigmatic mason while he becomes increasingly haunted by his crime.
Pic has already won prizes at fests in Oldenburg and Mannheim and just unspooled at the Sao Paulo Film Festival.
“We set out to make a film about a subject that has never been seen before,” says Benjamin Reding. “The journeymen’s travels are a very secret and mysterious experience, and that’s what we wanted to explore.”
The film also deals with violence against outsiders, a subject underscored in “Oy! Warning,” as well as the weighty themes of sin and redemption, love and tragedy.
“These are major themes — Shakespearian themes,” Reding says.
Released by Senator Film Verleih, the $1.8 million film is the first German title to go out under the distrib’s new Autobahn arthouse label, joining the ranks of such specialty titles as David Slade’s “Hard Candy,” Rian Johnson’s “Brick” and John Cameron Mitchell’s “Shortbus.”
“I was immediately blown away by the film and its intensity,” says Senator topper Marco Weber, adding that the pic is “in its consistent rawness incredibly powerful and at the same time unexpectedly subtle.”
For the Redings, the film’s inclusion on the Autobahn label is an important step forward. “We have the feeling that not only the film, but also the filmmakers are understood,” says Benjamin Reding.
The film, which hits theaters Nov. 8, comes at a time when craftsmen apprenticeships and the custom of “wandering” are again on the rise and attracting young people after decades of being considered antiquated. The number of traveling journeymen, nearly nil throughout the 1970s, climbed to 800 in 2005, with 10% of those being women.
Meanwhile, the Redings’ are at work on their next project, “Der Golem und die zweifache Welt,” an English-language children’s film based on the Jewish folktale about a creature made of clay that defends the Prague ghetto from anti-Semitic attacks. The project, which is to shoot in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic, is being partially funded by federal funds as well as the German-Polish Film Fund.
The Redings are looking to work with international co-production partners on the film, which is budgeted at $17 million.