German comedy is a badly maligned artistic genre, often very unfairly. “Und wer nimmt den Hund?” is on repeat showing in several cinemas in Berlin. It must have something about it, right?
What we have is a comedy about a marriage falling apart. The title can be translated either as “and who gets to keep the dog?” or “and who has to take the dog?” but I think the former is implied. Large parts of the film consists of the main protagonists Georg and Doris visiting a marriage counsellor.
Georg is the director of an aquarium and has already started an affair with a young woman doing a doctorate there. Doris is also on her way to finding a lover, but they both still have time for unreasonable overreaction. They have kids and a couple of friends and I’m losing the will to live typing all of this because I really didn’t care about any of them.
A number of reviews have compared this to the War of the Roses, and I find the comparison pertinent, but probably not for the intended reason. I vividly remember seeing War of the Roses in its opening run, but I haven’t seen it since because I absolutely, viscerally hated it. I just could feel no positive emotions for the odious over-rich couple whose bickering put them into danger of serious injury. All I could do was to pray that they could do each other some permanent damage soon, so that I could finally leave the cinema.
Now my reaction to this film is not as extreme as that to the War of the Roses, and is fuelled more by boredom than hatred. But I do think that the reasons for my reaction are similar. Firstly the idea that just because someone is well off, they have further to fall, thus engendering some sort of sympathy from the plebs in the audience. Not from this pleb, sorry. Secondly the idea that its funny when posh people show emotions, rather than just lazy writing. Added to this is the inference that we can generalize from the travails of this couple, because Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus innit, and that’s just how they’re programmed to behave.
I’ve got to give one caveat. There is a lot of dialogue in the film, spoken very quickly. So there may have been all sorts of witty repartee that I just missed because it was coming out too quickly in my second language. But to be honest, my lack of concentration was more down to the film’s failure to engage me than anything else.
Maybe if I’d seen it in a different mood, I’d have been more indulgent. I was even considering (such is the power of a free ticket) leaving half way through and returning on a day when I might be more willing to give it a chance. Instead I stayed to see if it would get any better. It didn’t really.