Wonderfully honest and simply “beautiful”: In her third feature film, Karoline Herfurth strikes a skilful balance of American pathos, great irony and deeply enchanting moments.
Berlin – The title brings to mind cinema classics: Frank Capra’s “Isn’t Life Beautiful?” from 1947, a great Christmas tearjerker. To Roberto Benigni’s “Life is Beautiful” (1997).
Also with “Wunderschön”, the third directorial work by Karoline Herfurth, it is a matter of a tragic comedy that touches the heart. Not everything is beautiful in this work either. There are five women who get tangled up in the snares of life again and again in the most glorious and saddest way. With well-known film faces such as Emilia Schüle, Nora Tschirner, Martina Gedeck, Friedrich Mücke and Joachim Król, “Beautiful” has a prominent cast. And Herfurth itself also has one of the most central roles.
Appearance as the central theme
Herfurth plays Sonja, an increasingly desperate mother, who not only suffers from her career-fixated husband (Mücke), but also doesn’t really like the role of mom. Martina Gedeck is Frauke, in her late fifties, who hopes for more out of life than just cooking for and having boring conversations with her old husband. Both son and daughter have already moved out, the latter tries her hand in the world of models – whose cruel dark sides are brutally and honestly dissected by director Herfurth.
The subject of appearance (once a little girl asks: “What does one look like?”), one’s own perception and that of others: this is the fixed star in terms of content, around which the very entertaining stories of the film revolve. Teenager Leyla (wonderful: Dilara Eylin Ziem) also suffers from her appearance, finally finding the right valve for her in baseball.
Courage to ugliness
Above all, Tschirner, the fifth woman in this virtuoso choreographed ensemble, is an event: The 40-year-old actress, musician, former presenter, who also played in Herfurth’s directorial debut of 2016 “SMS für Dich”, captivates with her snotty, touching Art: She is a single art teacher who not only attracts attention with her shaggy head of hair and a blue band-aid that always adorns her right index finger.
No, her elderly, fiery red Golf is also arousing interest. This is also the case with a brisk teacher colleague, with whom Tschirner (initially) only gets involved in a mini affair. There are few local actors who are able to display their courage to be ugly and bold in such a nice and sympathetic way – without ever falling off the narrow balancing beam between slapstick and seriousness.
The chemistry is right
Tschirner, however, would probably not be able to exploit her potential so well if she did not have such a (now) experienced director and congenial and refreshing opponents and teammates in front of the camera in Herfurth: that the chemistry between the two is special, the purely professional The actress relationship sometimes seems to transcend, as can be seen in one of the most beautiful scenes. The tear-stricken art teacher is standing at her no less deranged best friend’s door: Am I an obnoxious hermit? Tschirner asks in desperation. Whereupon Herfurth hugs her full of warmth – not just in an apparently feigned manner: “No, no, you’re just terribly annoying sometimes!”.
It’s moments like these in which Karoline Herfurth can best demonstrate her special flair for both sad and extremely funny moments. Of course, Herfurth cannot quite keep up with a classic like Capra’s “Isn’t life beautiful?”, with Benigni’s “La Vita è bella” from 1997, which was showered with prizes. One or the other story twist, but also some criticism of traditional role models and perspectives is then too predictable. But one thing is the luxurious 131 minutes of cinema that the 37-year-old actress and filmmaker gives us in the middle of the second Corona winter, in any case: beautiful.
Beautiful, Germany 2020, 131 min., FSK from 6, by Karoline Herfurth, with Nora Tschirner, Friedrich Mücke, Martina Gedeck dpa