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Ach du Scheiße! / Holy Shit!

Director: Lukas Rinker (Germany). Year of Release: 2022

A woman in a hard hat and blue overalls is dancing provocatively to substandard pop music. She slowly removes the overalls to reveal her breasts, lightly dripping with sweat. She lights a stick of dynamite and gently lights it. It looks just about to explode. Just when we are asking “what is this gratuitous shit?” someone wakes up and we find it is just a dream (which in no way justifies the scene, but let’s let that pass for a moment).

Frank is woken up by water dripping from a slightly salacious poster of the woman from the film. He has streaks of blood on his face, running from a bump on his forehead. And, now he starts to think about it, his arm is hurting pretty badly. He looks down and sees that a metal rod has pierced through the arm and is pinning it to the floor. The arm is pretty battered, and is losing blood. As Frank starts to gain perspective, he realises that he is trapped upside down in a portaloo.

In the distance, we hear a PA blasting speeches from a nearby event. Horst Wolf, local businessman and mayoral candidate, has invited the general public and a Japanese investor to watch him blow up his father’s mansion. It’s got to go to make way for a lucrative housing development. The event is accompanied by aeroplanes carrying “Vote Horst” banners. Horst says on the PA that his architect, Frank, should be joining him, but for some reason, Frank has gone missing.

As Frank tries to manoeuvre, he finds that the portaloo door has been padlocked shut. Fortunately, he has a hammer in his pocket and manages to bore a hole in the portaloo wall. He sees a detonator just opposite. On the PA, Horst announces that the mansion will be blown up in exactly half an hour. Frank desperately sets the timer on his watch to show just how little time his has left. He also tries to connect to the outside world through a phone which he dropped into the toilet.

But phone coverage has been cut to avoid interference with the demolition. Whenever Horst seems to be approaching a way out of his imprisonment, he encounters another barrier. He deftly uses everything from an extendable measuring stick to his trousers to try and manipulate himself out of the portaloo. But each time, his ingenuity fails to free him. Meanwhile, a toilet seat with a smiley imprinted on it is talking to him and is starting to take the piss.

Many of the scenes are excruciatingly violent. Frank often moves unthinkingly, which causes untold pain to his still bleeding arm. At one stage, he thinks up a way of releasing this arm from the metal rod on which it is impaled, but this solution is only possible with the help of cocaine, which is handily available in one of Horst’s suitcase. On more than one occasion, Frank considers chopping off his hand with a penknife and we wince at just the thought of this.

Ach du Scheiße! Is a single concept film, whose concept is, at least in part, a result of its limited budget and filming under Covid conditions. The whole of the film takes place within, or on the edge of, the portaloo, and mainly concerns Frank’s increasingly desperate attempts to escape being blown to kingdom come. There is also a whole load of blood and shit – the latter both physically at the bottom of the toilet bowl and in the regular repetition of toilet-based profanities.

So, does the concept work? To a reasonable extent it does. Gradually, the talk moves, if not away from shit, then at least to cover other topics. Just in case we weren’t already suspicious of Horst’s property development, we learn that It will damage the environment, in particular endangered owls. Frau Grün from the environmental department has already signed an emergency order halting the detonation. Her prone body appears later just outside the portaloo.

We also learn a backstory around Frank’s girlfriend Marie. As his memory slowly recovers, he remembers that he left home this morning on a fight, having told Marie that he’s not ready for a family quite yet. Things have not been great between them for a while – in particular, Frank has been neglecting Marie for the sake of his job. He also gradually becomes obsessed with the idea that Horst may be about to run away with her.

I’ve said many times before that I have a problem with German comedy, and there’s a bit of that here – in tonight’s screening there were some people laughing throughout the film, for reasons that I couldn’t start to fathom. And yet there is a likeability about the film that makes it hard to dislike. I would much rather that this film succeeds than one with a thousand times the budget, but none of its inventiveness and amiability.

There’s probably not enough in Ach du Scheiße! to warrant a full film – not even one like this which barely makes 90 minutes. But at least it doesn’t outstay its welcome too much, and there is always enough going on to maintain our attention. This is writer/director Lukas Rinker’s first film, and was made on a budget of a few hundred thousand Euros. For that money, he’s more than earned the opportunity on keeping on doing whatever it is that he’s doing.

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