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by Benjamin Heisenberg

grade: 6.5

What we witness in Superegos is a true crescendo. Of emotions and of extreme situations. And the feature film – which is mainly supported by the excellent performances of André Wilms and Georg Friedrich – does not lose credibility, but, on the contrary, thanks to a script that has no particular ambitions other than to laugh at what has made nations such as Austria and Germany ‘famous’, manages to always maintain a good rhythm. Even when the ending seems a little too hasty.

Enemies or friends?

Austria and psychoanalysis. Germany and the great sense of guilt because of what happened during World War II. These are themes that are often dealt with in domestic film productions. But what happens when Austria and Germany meet and decide to create a sort of crasis between their two workhorses? Soon said. One of the feature films that most closely reflects these characteristics, for example, is the hilarious Superegos (original title: ‘Über-Ich und du’), made by German director Benjamin Heisenberg in 2014, in which two true legends of French and Austrian (but not only) cinema – André Wilms and Georg Friedrich – come together to make a comedy about apparent diversity, paradoxes and – why not? – also about (unexpected) friendship.

Because, in fact, at first glance, two characters like Curt Ledig (Wilms), seventy years old, a renowned psychologist with an impeccable present but a dark past, and Nick (Friedrich), an adrift young man – a typical Viennese Strizzi – a kind-hearted villain who smuggles old books, but who, in the long run, has become heavily indebted to the local underworld. The fact is that, in order not to be found by his creditors, Nick decides to go to a temporarily uninhabited luxury villa. It’ s only a pity that, once he arrives there, he discovers that Curt himself lives in the villa, intent on recording an interview for a local television channel and about to organise a summit regarding the topics dealt with in his newest book. Curt, in turn, while having to deal with memory lapses and various aches and pains, will find Nick’s company extremely interesting, as an unusual clinical case to study. But how much will they actually have to learn from each other?

Everything in Superegos relies on gags. Especially at the beginning, when paradoxical situations – see a surprised Nick trying to send off an old friend of Curt’s with an excuse – turn out to be extremely hilarious. This is thanks to a linear script, which does not aim to ‘overdo it’, but which gracefully brings to life a story that is apparently simple, but, in reality, extremely complex from the point of view of characterisation of the protagonists, and thanks – above all – to the facial expressions and gestures of the two great protagonists. Of the two protagonists, as well as of brilliant secondary characters who, with the right aplomb, manage in their own way to leave a mark. See, above all, the excellent Maria Hofstàtter – also, like Georg Friedrich, Ulrich Seidl’s favourite actress – who on this occasion plays the role of ‘Mother’, far more perfidious and dangerous than her reassuring nom de guerre makes one believe.

It is a series of tics that characterise, from time to time, now one and now the other protagonist. And if, initially, both seem antithetical, they gradually end up becoming the mirror of each other. To the point of almost not being able to keep the right eye open. To the point, even, of not even being able to enter the kitchen. In what way, then, will psychoanalysis influence their lives? How will the past return, importantly, to make itself heard? At times certainly too indulgent, this film by Heisenberg does not, however, aim to raise sensitive questions, but, on the contrary, knows how to approach them without letting them play a too important role in events. While leaving, however, from a moral point of view, numerous questions unanswered. And yet, despite everything, the real focus here is another.

What we witness in Superegos, in fact, is a true crescendo. Of emotions and of extreme situations. And, in spite of everything, the feature film does not lose credibility. On the contrary, thanks to a script that has no particular ambitions other than to laugh at what has made nations such as Austria and Germany ‘famous’, it manages to maintain a good rhythm throughout its entire course. Even when the ending seems a little too hasty. Even when a colourful deus ex machina comes into play, surprising everyone. For a relaxing hot-air balloon ride there is always time. The important thing is to first find one’s own serenity, getting to know oneself better and finally making peace with one’s past.

Original title: Über-Ich und Du
Directed by: Benjamin Heisenberg
Country/year: Germany, Austria, Switzerland / 2014
Running time: 93’
Genre: comedy
Cast: André Wilms, Georg Friedrich, Bettina Stucky, Susanne Wolff, Elisabeth Orth, Maria Hofstätter, Margarita Broich, Markus Schleinzer, Nina Fog, John Keogh, Johanna Bantzer, Annina Euling, Nicolas Wackerbarth, Saskia Walker, Gonny Gaakeer, Philippe Graber, Hildegard Schroedter, Tomas Jester, Hakan Orbeyi, Monica Rayes, Andreas Nickl, Leonard Carow, Michael Wittenborn, Florian Stetter, Paul Herwig
Screenplay: Benjamin Heisenberg, Josef Lechner
Cinematography: Reinhold Vorschneider
Produced by: Novotny & Novotny Filmproduktion, Komplizen Film, Vega Film

Info: the page of Superegos on iMDb; the page of Superegos on the website of the Österreichisches Filminstitut