It’s immediately clear that O Palmenbaum is not an ambitious feature film. Its main purpose is to stage the bizarre adventures of the Treichl/Moor families, which the audience loved so much in Single Bells. And this, considered from this point of view, works, especially if one thinks that, compared to numerous other sequels, the structure of the previous feature film is never taken up, in order to create a sort of “carbon copy” of it.
Festively decorated palms
Christmas, you know, means family time. For better or for worse. But what if one were to decide to spend the holidays away from one’s loved ones, choosing a totally new destination, in order to avoid embarrassing situations that, punctually, occur during lunches and dinners with relatives? This is what Kati (Martina Gedeck) and Jonas (Gregor Bloeb), whom we had already met in Single Bells (1997) and whom we also meet again in O Palmenbaum, made in 2000, again directed by Xaver Schwarzenberger, would like to do.
The characters, then, are always the same. The problems and pre-Christmas stress too. Kati and Jonas – who in Single Bells had temporarily broken up – decided to get married on Christmas Eve, far away from friends and family. For this reason they booked a trip to Mauritius, where they will be able to realise their love dream. However, when Luise (Mona Seefried) learns about this, she decides to join them together with her family, so as not to leave her sister alone on her wedding day. The group will also be joined by Lilibet (Johanna von Koczian), Kati and Luise’s mother, and Maria (Inge Konradi), Luise’s mother-in-law.
So, as they say, never change a winning team. Nor the family dynamics change, although in this O Palmenbaum the interpersonal relationships tend towards more conciliatory and, if you like, even less extreme and paradoxical solutions, with the exception of several ‘turbulences’ during the outward flight and a polka-dotted Gregor Bloeb due to a sudden chickenpox.
Just like the previous Single Bells, then, O Palmenbaum also suffers, however, from an overly TV-like style, where good actors – among whom, in a cameo, we also see Elisabeth Orth – often have to deliver at times superficial and never entirely original lines.
But, you know, television often requires certain standards. Especially in the case of light-hearted comedy, whose sole purpose is to entertain the audience during the Christmas holidays, between one dinner party and another, between one gift and another. And Xaver Schwarzenberger – together with his wife Ulrike, screenwriter – has for years now been devoting himself to TV films, where, despite an excellent film debut in 1983 with The Pacific Ocean, he seems to be particularly at ease.
Consequently, it is immediately evident that O Palmenbaum is not an ambitious feature film. Its main purpose is to depict the bizarre adventures of the Treichl/Moor families, which the audience loved so much in Single Bells. And this, considered from this perspective, works, especially if one thinks that, compared to numerous other sequels, the structure of the previous feature film is never taken up, in order to create a sort of “carbon copy” of it. Except, of course, for a palm tree decorated like a Christmas tree, to which, however, a sudden rain reserves a much happier fate than that of its ‘predecessor’ in Single Bells.
Original title: O Palmenbaum
Directed by: Xaver Schwarzenberger
Country/year: Germany, Austria / 2000
Running time: 90’
Genre: comedy, ensemble movie
Cast: Inge Konradi, Johanna von Koczian, Mona Seefried, Erwin Steinhauer, Martina Gedeck, Gregor Bloeb, Mariella Hahn, Thomas Thurgar, Elisabeth Orth, Stephan Paryla, Proschat Madani, Michel Virginie, Kumar Swadesh, Sultan Beeharry, Advitiya Suraya Vishvasniya-Raho
Screenplay: Ulrike Schwarzenberger
Cinematography: Xaver Schwarzenberger
Produced by: Bayerischer Rundfunk, TeamFilm Produktion, ORF