You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Lessons of a Dream

Proving once again that any history can be made into formulaic feel-good pablum, Daniel Bruhl vehicle "Lessons of a Dream" hits all the expected revisionist PC notes in positing soccer's arrival as a liberating force in stuffy late-19th century Germany.

With: Daniel Bruehl, Burghart Klaussner, Justus von Dohnanyi, Kathrin von Steinburg, Theo Trebs, Thomas Thieme, Adrian Moore, Till Valentin Winter, Jurgen Tonkel; Axel Prahl, Vincent Kastner, Henriette Confurius. (German, English dialogue)

Proving once again that any history can be made into formulaic feel-good pablum, Daniel Bruehl vehicle “Lessons of a Dream” hits all the expected revisionist PC notes in positing soccer’s arrival as a liberating force in stuffy late-19th-century Germany. As chockfull of up-with-people inspirational uplift as its title indicates, this handsome but thoroughly contrived diversion will fill slots adequately in limited offshore theatrical and wider ancillary placements.

Hired to launch English-language instruction at a militaristic boys’ academy in 1874, native German Konrad Koch (Bruehl) has just returned from four years’ study at Oxford, which apparently was a hotbed of progressive thought and instruction by comparison.

The students, accustomed to maximum rigidity, are initially more nonplussed than pleased by his attempts to make learning more participatory. Fed up by their intransigence, he eventually marches them into the gymnasium — usually the site of dull strength-demonstration exercises — and with the ball he’s carried like a precious babe from Britain, introduces them to this disconcertingly fun sport as a means of drilling vocabulary.

Even this modest break from convention seems wave-making at an institution whose headmaster (Burghart Klaussner) and staff bow to the xenophobic proprieties of wealthy local businessman Hartung (Justus von Dohnanyi), heavy-handed head of the school’s funding board. Hartung and Koch soon clash, with Hartung’s proto-Nazi Youth son Felix (Theo Trebs) expected to play classroom informer so daddy can get rid of this untoward interloper.

Echoing pop’s prejudices, Felix also leads the bullying of Joost (Adrian Moore), a lowly factory worker’s son who as the first beneficiary of a charity scholarship is clearly to be discouraged whenever possible. Of course, he turns out to be a natural at soccer, just as the likewise parentally nagged fat kid (Till Valentin Winter) proves a born goalie.

For the benefit of contempo audiences, lower-class women are made spunky and resourceful, snobbish gentry get put in their place, tolerance lessons are learnt all around, convenient last-minute solutions arise to equally predictable obstacles, romantic interests arrive on cue, and it naturally all ends in a thrilling soccer match (guess who wins). There’s even a “Spartacus” moment when the freshly untamed students all confess to one mate’s offense.

While there is some actual truth buried in “Dream” (a closing title notes that this controversially “foreign” sport remained banned in conservative Bavaria as late as 1927), Philipp Roth and Johanna Stuttmann’s screenplay makes every narrative turn feel driven by demographically targeted marketing data. Likewise first-time feature helmer Sebastian Grobler handles his duties with professional assurance, but demonstrates no individual style or personality.

Perfs are satisfactory, tech/design aspects polished.

Lessons of a Dream


Production: A Beta Cinema presentation of a Deutschfilm, Cuckoo Clock Entertainment and Senator Film production in association with Rialto Film and ARD Degeto. (International sales: Beta, Oberhaching.) Produced by Anatol Nitschke, Raoul Reinert. Co-producers, Helge Sasse, Matthias Wendlandt, Felix Wendlandt, Hans-Wolfgang Jurgan. Directed by Sebastian Grobler. Screenplay, Philipp Roth, Johanna Stuttmann, based on an idea by Grobler and Raoul Reinert.

Crew: Camera (color), Martin Langer; editor, Dirk Grau; music, Ingo Frenzel; production designer, Thomas Freudenthal; art directors, Dominik Kremerskothen, Elisa Runer; set decorator, Daniele Drobny; costume designer, Monika Jacobs; sound (Dolby Digital), Richard Borowski; sound designer, Kai Storck; assistant director, Cecile Heisler-Zigulla; casting, Heta Mantscheff. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival, competing), Aug. 23, 2011. Running time: 113 MIN.

With: With: Daniel Bruehl, Burghart Klaussner, Justus von Dohnanyi, Kathrin von Steinburg, Theo Trebs, Thomas Thieme, Adrian Moore, Till Valentin Winter, Jurgen Tonkel; Axel Prahl, Vincent Kastner, Henriette Confurius. (German, English dialogue)

More Film

  • '2019 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live

    Film Review: ‘2019 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live Action’

    The Academy skewed dark in its choice of live-action shorts this year, selecting four films to slit your wrists by — each one featuring child endangerment in a different form — and a fifth, about a diabetic on her death bed, that finds a glimmer of uplift at the other end of life. If that [...]

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in an Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Yorgos Lanthimos

    Film News Roundup: 'The Favourite' Director Yorgos Lanthimos Boards Crime Drama

    In today’s film news roundup, Yorgos Lanthimos has set up a crime drama, “Here Lies Daniel Tate” is being adapted, and Donna Langley becomes a member of the USC film school board. DIRECTOR HIRED “The Favourite” producer-director Yorgos Lanthimos has signed on to write and direct crime drama “Pop. 1280,” an adaptation of Jim Thompson’s [...]

  • Brody Stevens Dead

    Comedian Brody Stevens Dies at 48

    Prominent Los Angeles comedian Brody Stevens died Friday in Los Angeles, Variety has confirmed. He was 48. “Brody was an inspiring voice who was a friend to many in the comedy community,” Stevens’ reps said in a statement. “He pushed creative boundaries and his passion for his work and his love of baseball were contagious. [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business

    Hollywood Agents Blast Writers Guild Over New Proposals

    The war between the Writers Guild of America and Hollywood agents has escalated as the two sides battle over the rules on how writers are represented. The latest volley emerged Friday from Karen Stuart, executive director of the Association of Talent Agents, who accused WGA leaders of misleading its members and asserted that the guild [...]

  • Xavier Legrand Custody

    Cesar Awards: Xavier Legrand’s ‘Custody’ Wins Best Film

    Xavier Legrand’s feature debut “Custody,” a tense portrait of a family torn by domestic violence, won best film, actress (for Lea Drucker), and original screenplay at the 44th Cesar Awards, which took place at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. The awards are France’s highest film honors. “Custody,” which marks Legrand’s follow up to his Oscar-nominated [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Late Show With Stephen Colbert' Win Publicity Campaign Awards

    Hollywood publicists have selected “Crazy Rich Asians” as the top movie publicity campaign for 2018 and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” as the best television campaign. Warner Bros.’ “Crazy Rich Asians” topped the campaigns for Disney’s “Black Panther,” Fox’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and Universal’s “Halloween” for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content