Berlinale: Es war einmal in Deutschland … (Bye Bye Germany)

Es war einmal in Deutschland … (Bye Bye Germany)

Directed by Sam Garbarski
Starring Moritz Bleibtreu, Antje Traue, Mark Ivanir, Hans Löw, Tim Seyfi, Anatole Taubman, Pal Macsai and Vaclav Jakoubek

by Laura Patricia Jones

Films concerning the Second World War and the Holocaust are relatively common, as are films about the aftermath of war and its effects.  But a story about Holocaust survivors and what happens next? Relatively unheard of – and as a comedy? Whatever next! But that’s exactly what Bye Bye Germany does as Moritz Bleibtrau fronts a post-war, Holocaust-survivor comedy.

The reason for this never really being a genre is pointed out quite prominently within the film- people just don’t like to talk about it, but Sam Garbarski and Michel Bergmann’s script lacks anything but. It’s a chatty and human-infused script from the get go. In conversation surrounding the protagonist David Bermann’s three-legged dog’s heritage, Bermann responds, “German yes, but never a Nazi. I knew the family- very respectable dogs.” Quick-witted humour resounds throughout the film.

But what about the plot?

We’re told at the beginning of the film that approximately 4,000 Jews remained in Germany or returned there soon after the defeat of the Nazi regime, many of whom struggled to explain this choice to their children. The rest sought to emigrate, mainly to the USA, in search of a better life away from the memories of the country that betrayed them. With this premise we follow the story of David Bermann, whose family were linen merchants, attempting to build his fortune to leave Germany by becoming a peddling salesman of linen with his equally eager motley crew that he assembles because he is unable to get a sales license of his own. The reason for this being that he is being investigated by the secret police for war crimes of consorting with the enemy. The reality of this is that Bermann was actually just given special privileges for telling jokes and making the Nazis laugh. This backstory which shapes the narrative, as we discover the truth in the story, is interesting and fruitful nevertheless.

Bye Bye Germany is a bold move in terms of content and subject matter, but definitely a good watch for fans of comedy and period dramas even though it feels wrong that the effects of the Holocaust should even fall into this comedic category. The more moving and ‘human’ moments make this genre choice more acceptable than it sounds.

Great acting, witty script, beautiful cinematography.



Leave a Reply