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Higher mathematics

Michael Stadler
Michael Stadler

Things move in a linear fashion while coming full circle. The 38th FILMFEST MÜNCHEN opens today with the film KAISERSCHMARRNDRAMA, marking the continuation of a popular series of detective films but also their return to the festival.

Higher mathematics

If you want to understand the mathematics underlying all existence, you should definitely watch the series of films about Bavarian detective Franz Eberhofer. Geometry manifests itself again and again, as it does in the seventh installment, KAISERSCHMARRNDRAMA, which starts off the Filmfest today in no fewer than six locations.

 

circles

 

There are, for example, the annoying but also amusing loops that things tend to move in, symbolized in each episode by the magnificent traffic circle that flings motorists out toward Niederkaltenkirchen while the approach from the highway fades from memory. Seen the other way, the traffic circle promises an escape from the boondocks, namely toward the highway and out into the world! Eberhofer’s dad, an aging hippie who goes with the flow, once stood at the edge of the circle, because he wanted to hitchhike out of town. Spoiler alert: he returned one day.

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Franz And Rudi IN KAISERSCHMARRNDRAMA.

The alternative is to give in to the circle’s centripetal force. Just for fun, Franz once drove a bus full of young disabled people around the circle several times like in a merry-go-round. One night, holding his baby, he spun around and around in a circle, lulling the child to sleep. Excitement and calm: either one is possible! And the juvenile and wildly stupid racing that Franz and his buddies Flötzinger and Simmerl have engaged in here should probably not be mentioned to anyone.

Meanwhile, the real traffic circle north of Frontenhausen is officially called the Franz Eberhofer traffic circle; Sebastian Bezzel and other cast members personally christened it in August 2018. Bezzel even said that the traffic circle was the series’ “true protagonist”! This ought to have pleased the traffic circle, though not all the straight roads in Lower Bavaria (if there are any). But that’s the way it is: fiction takes a hold of reality and exploits it shamelessly for its lively goings-on. Of course, reality in turn exploits fiction, so that yes, even such a dull traffic circle can become famous! In the end, this is quite a nice symbiosis of fact and fiction. Who wouldn’t want to go around in circles like Eberhofer?

 

Triangles

 

We were talking about mathematics, though, and we’d be amiss if we didn’t mention triangles. These include the love triangles that arise among the characters, although the biggest triangle is probably the one between Franz, Rudi, and the homicidal world outside. Rudi strives to keep things amiable with Franz, something the latter unfortunately does not appreciate at all. “We’ll do it like we always do: you good cop, me bad cop,” Rudi says before an interrogation. “Dummkopf,” adds Franz, once again allowing his mean side to detract from their harmonious partnership.

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a typical eberhofer evening.

The triangles are unstable, but there are vivid pyramids in the Eberhofer films that are nicely set up: particularly pyramids made of shot glasses. Franz and his buddies construct such a work of art from time to time, which on the one hand testifies to their skill and on the other hand to their intention of drinking away that skill for the rest of the evening. In their drunken stupor, there is usually dancing; in fact, there’s been extreme, almost legendary revelry in the Eberhofer series, but also the harshest sobering up, usually the morning after.

In KAISERSCHMARRNDRAMA, Franz wakes up with a killer hangover. Neither Susi nor his dog is lying next to him. Instead, it’s Rudi, who has taken up residence on the Eberhofer farm because an accident has left him in a wheelchair and in need of constant care. This is a rude awakening, especially for Franz. The only time it might have been worse was in LEBERKÄSJUNKIE, when he put in an awesome mix tape labeled “Best of Rock 2” and his party mood was mercilessly crushed. Saying “You’re not 15 anymore” and “We have to get up early,” his gang simply left the pub. No solidarity whatsoever.

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Franz and his Susi.

Lines

 

Yes, the Eberhofer stories also tell us about getting older: about how eternal youth gradually bids farewell because it’s simply incompatible with all the laugh lines and the demands of everyday life. Thus, over the course of the episodes, several plot lines focused on “adult life” — just take Susi and Franz’s relationship, for example. After some scenes of jealousy early on in the series — Franz didn’t give Susi enough attention, Susi flirted with an Italian man, Franz went to Lake Garda to bring Susi home, and so on and so forth — the two got together, had a child, separated again between episodes, got back together...

In KAISERSCHMARRNDRAMA, the stress of the relationship culminates in Susi and Franz’s brother Leopold wanting to build a duplex with a communal sauna next to the (grand)parents’ farmhouse. Susi and Leopold versus Franz: Bang! There’s another triangle, which even distends into a rectangle, because Franz’s father, whom Eisi Gulp doesn’t so much play as inhale like a particularly fine joint, flips out in the face of so much bourgeoisie.

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Franz together with the head of department Moratscheck in DAMPFNUDELBLUES.

Other lines can be drawn without much effort. While Sigi Zimmerschied snuffed so much tobacco as station master Moratschek in DUMPFNUDELBLUES that it was a wonder his nose didn’t explode, in KAISERSCHMARRNDRAMA he makes a phone call from an aerobics class! Meanwhile, the son of Simmerl, the butcher, has matured from a graffiti artist to a budding cop focused on acting proper. And Susi has gone from being a lovable bimbo to a committed feminist! Well, not quite that far; a bit of sexism is still allowed in rural Bavaria. In DAMPFNUDELBLUES, an assessment of the female body (Eberhofer: “Your legs are showing a lot of wear and tear”) leads to Susi riding off naked on her bicycle to get away; an admiring statement (Eberhofer: “You have a fine ass!”) is later even taken as something of a compliment in GRIESSNOCKERLAFFÄRE. Nevertheless, Lisa Maria Pothoff is able to give her Susi a firm resolve, a stamina with which she tames her boyfriend’s machismo.

It’d be nice to see a linear progression with Franz himself, going from an infantile, gun-toting cop to a responsible suburban cowboy who perfectly balances his job and his role as a father, but it doesn’t quite work out that way. Comedy is often funny because nothing changes. At one point, Franz landed in the urban jungle of Munich (Eberhofer: “Munich can kiss my ass”) and had a terrific adversary/boss in Nora Waldstätten as “Thin Lizzy”. But he was quickly drawn back to Niederkaltenkirchen. Well, full circle again.

Even so, in DAMPFNUDELBLUES, Rudi advises him: “Eberhofer, you really have to work on your feminine side. A modern man is allowed to show his feelings!” Eberhofer’s reply pretty much didn’t come until LEBERKÄSJUNKIE: “It’s always crappy to have too many feelings!” And now in KAISERSCHMARRNDRAMA he reveals them after all: feelings!

But for that, something very tragic has to occur. At this point: no spoilers. It should be noted, however, that Rudi is still very critical when it comes to culinary matters. In DAMPFNUDELBLUES he complained about the cheese dish at the Olympia-Imbiss, and in KAISERSCHMARRNDRAMA about the pancakes served to him in the hospital. Rudi only really enjoys the delicacies cooked up by Grandma Eberhofer. But because of grandma, everyone has to, well, watch their figure.

Sumptuous, too, are the visuals in this series. The camera is often so mercilessly close to the actors that no space is left for the surroundings. Here, too, everything lines up: from the ensemble to the lens and ultimately to the theater audience. These hyper-close-ups are funny, but also a bit threatening. Not only are we allowed to look; they also look back!

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Simon Schwarz and Sebastian Bezzel at the world premiere of DAMPFNUDELBLUES at Filmfest München 2013.

 

circles

 

And yet, all in all, everything goes in circles. Each year, an Eberhofer detective film is released (provided a pandemic doesn’t delay things a bit). Each year, the same team gets together in front of and behind the camera, from producer Kerstin Schmidbauer to director Ed Herzog to screenwriter Stefan Betz to the crew, including the perfectly coordinated ensemble. By the way, DAMPFNUDELBLUES had its premiere at FILMFEST MÜNCHEN 2013, KAISERSCHMARRNDRAMA now at FILMFEST MÜNCHEN 2021. In that way, too, things have come full circle. But as this seventh installment turns out to be as entertaining as ever, another popular episode is practically guaranteed, and the series moves on and on down the line.

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