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by David Schalko
The bizarre situations staged by David Schalko in the series Me and the Others are initially presented as a pure divertissement: we do not know why the protagonist is able to make these wishes, nor do we know who is able to make his dreams come true. Then, slowly, the music changes. At the Berlinale 2021.
By now, director and screenwriter David Schalko is at home at the Berlinale. After presenting, in fact, at the Berlinale 2019 the series M – A City hunts a Murderer (inspired by Fritz Lang’s masterpiece M), here he is also back at this Berlinale 2021 with a new series produced by Sky Deutschland and Superfilm. We are talking about Me and the Others (Ich und die Anderen), an amusing and bizarre journey into the world of psychoanalysis and everyone’s desires divided into six episodes.
Tristan (played by Tom Schilling), then, is a brilliant young career man about to become a father. But is he really ready for this? And, above all, is Julia (Katharina Schüttler) really the woman of his life? Or is the man, after all, still in love with his former best friend Franziska (Mavie Hörbiger)? Perhaps Tristan could come to terms with his doubts by looking at reality through new points of view. And suddenly, an opportunity mysteriously occurs to him: he will have the chance to make six wishes, one per day, in order to experience reality as he wishes. Will everything really be that simple? Probably, only a mysterious taxi driver in charge of driving him around the city will know how best to advise him, as a kind of omniscient Virgil.
Tristan’s wishes, in fact, are quite common. He would, in fact, like everyone to know everything about him, everyone to love him, everyone to be honest with themselves and with others, and so on. But what would happen if such situations actually came true? Thus begins a series of hilarious, almost paradoxical situations, in which Tristan seems increasingly lost, increasingly incredulous. Accompanying him on this strange path: his extravagant parents, his sister Isolde (a contemporary artist obsessed with sex), his colleagues and his psychoanalyst. And, of course, his partner Julia and his friend Franziska, who mysteriously disappeared in a house in the woods, but who, from time to time, phones him or shows up before him in the oddest of guises. These are all the people who, in one way or another, influence his life.
The bizarre situations staged by Schalko in his Me and the Others are initially presented as pure divertissement: we do not know why the protagonist is able to make these wishes, nor do we know who is able to make his dreams come true. Everything seems to come out of nowhere, nothing seems to have any real basis. And we are fine with that, because, after all, we too, like Tristan, are surprised every day by what might happen.
Then, slowly, the music changes. Very slowly. Everything slowly seems to take on more abstract connotations, paradox reigns supreme, the various characters appear even in the most absurd situations and nothing seems to follow its own logic any more.
A strange, alienating Vienna, far removed from the classical Vienna shown to us in films, seems more chaotic and glamorous than ever (thanks also to the always excellent work of cinematographer Martin Gschlacht). Dream and reality blur and the incursions into the psyche and unconscious of our protagonist become more and more frequent. Almost as if one were in a David Lynch film. Almost.
David Schalko, for his part, never gives us precise answers about this, probably also considering a second season of the series. On the contrary, he makes us identify with the protagonist in every way, experience his same feelings, wander through his unconscious and reflect on how he could change his life by making certain decisions. Sigmund Freud’s theories, the forest as a symbol of the unconscious, an important discourse on the couple compatibility, and the technology that is increasingly present in everyday life (the character of Hubert – Tristan’s colleague and only true friend – who one day attempts to commit suicide after losing his mobile phone – is particularly significant in this regard) are the recurring themes in Me and the Others. Too much? Probably. The greatest risk, in fact, is precisely that of wanting to emulate David Lynch at all costs, treading difficult paths and thus risking getting lost forever.
But, of course, given the open ending, it is still too early to express a final opinion on this. Me and the Others undoubtedly amuses. And if, at first, it made Tristan’s character seem a bit unfriendly to everyone, in time, the audience began to feel closer and closer to this confused and astonished man. A transformation, his undoubtedly well written. Who knows what other surprises he will still have in store for us.
Original title: Ich und die Anderen
Directed by: David Schalko
Country/year: Austria, Germany / 2021
Running time: 240’
Cast: Tom Schilling, Lars Eidinger, Katharina Schüttler, Sophie Rois, Mavie Hörbiger, Martin Wuttke, Ramin Yazdani, Sarah Viktoria Frick, Michael Maertens, Merlin Sandmeyer, Vivienne Causemann, Husam Chadat, Anja Karmanski, Markus Schleinzer, Julia Franz Richter
Screenplay: David Schalko
Cinematography: Martin Gschlacht
Produced by: Superfilm Filmproduktions GmbH, Sky Deutschland